HP reiterated its broad commitment to grid computing on Thursday, saying it would add grid capabilities to all of its systems over the next two to three years.
The company is also broadening its service offerings to help businesses adopt the grid computing model, and now has 5,000 to 6,000 consultants in place worldwide to help customers get grids up and running, said Nora Denzel, senior vice president of HP's global software division.
The consultants will provide management, deployment and lifecycle support for grid environments, she said. The product and service plans are intended to extend HP's Adaptive Enterprise strategy to make IT systems more responsive to its clients' business needs, the company said.
Grid computing promises to let businesses treat groups of servers and storage equipment as if they were a single large machine, and to assign computing resources to applications on an as-needed basis. Proponents say it will help businesses save money by allowing them to use computing resources more efficiently, and can also make applications more reliable.
System vendors like IBM and Sun have also been outlining grid strategies, and Oracle at its user conference next week will provide more details about its own efforts to grid-enable its database and other software.
For its part, HP will integrate emerging grid standards, including the Globus Toolkit and Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA), into all of its enterprise systems over the next two to three years, as well as into products like handheld computers and printers, Denzel said.
"In the hardware we'll ship grid software that has been integrated and tested, so that when you do go to a grid environment a system will be able to put itself onto the grid easily and quickly and there will be no testing required," she said.
HP also has a "huge" software effort underway to simplify the creation and management of grids, including efforts to revamp its OpenView management tools for the task, Denzel said.
HP Labs has developed two components for the effort: Grid Resource Topology Designer, a graphical interface tool that can map out an organization's resource needs and submit them to the grid for fulfillment, and SmartFrog (Smart Framework for Object Groups), for configuring resources on computers that make up a grid, according to an HP statement.
HP isn't ready to say when the various products will be delivered or to talk about pricing. Some of the software exists today as part of HP's Utility Data Center initiative, according to Denzel, and others, like the products from HP Labs, will be rolled out in the coming years, she said. SmartFrog and the Grid Resource Topolology Designer have been demonstrated to customers but aren't yet in beta, she said.
One analyst said it's a stretch for HP to claim it has experience in grid computing because of its work with high-performance computing clusters and its UDC software, and said HP has lagged behind IBM in its grid efforts.
"IBM has championed the Globus Toolkit and has been leading the way in merging Web services technologies with grid computing to create OGSA," said David Freund, an analyst with Illuminata in Nashua, N.H. "There's a bit of 'me too' ringing in the air here."
Still, positioning OpenView as a management framework for the grid makes sense and the moves could help position HP for the long term, he said.
"As the grid evolves and matures into something of greater interest to businesses, rather than just the academic, scientific, research and government institutions, then HP will be there ready to play," he said.
Denzel argued that its too early in the game to declare any leaders.
"This is a five- to 10-year play. It's way too early to predict winners and losers," she said.
Businesses will start to adopt grid computing more widely when it becomes ubiquitous and all software and hardware is grid-enabled, she said. "The commercial grid isn't there yet, lots of planning and consulting are needed."