HP Looks Toward Blades To Cut Costs of PC Ownership

Hewlett-Packard is upping the ante in the utility computing space with moves to virtualize the desktop PC with server blades and expand its pay-per-use offerings.

December 6, 2003

3 Min Read
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Hewlett-Packard is upping the ante in the utility computing space with moves to virtualize the desktop PC with server blades and expand its pay-per-use offerings. The moves are all part of the company's Adaptive Enterprise strategy, said Nick van der Zweep, HP's director of utility computing and virtualization.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company's new Consolidated Client Infrastructure is aimed at replacing the typical desktop PC with a blade architecture to reduce the total PC cost of ownership by about half, said van der Zweep.

Under the plan, HP is tweaking its BL10e server blades with software to enable them to be used as desktop PCs, van der Zweep said. They are connected to a thin-client-type device on the users' desktops to which a keyboard, mouse and monitor are connected. When a user logs on, his or her desktop environment is automatically downloaded onto an unused blade. When finished, the blade is freed for other others, he said.

Customers will be charged $1,500 per user, or as low as $1,000 per user in large installations, to have their desktops replaced with the blades, said van der Zweep. The customer needs to implement only as many blades as it has concurrent users, and not one desktop per user, and can manage them centrally. "Typical customers now spend $4,000 to $8,000 to manage a PC over four years, including acquisition, management and software," he said. "With a blade PC, this can be cut in half."

The new PC blades are available now in limited quantities for use in pilot programs and are scheduled for general availability in March, van der Zweep said.The company also expects to introduce dedicated PC blades based on Transmeta processors in March, he said. Unlike the BL10e blades, the Transmeta blades will be sold one per user at $799 per blade and $399 for the associated software, he said.

Other vendors, such as Clear Cube, have also implemented blade PCs, said van der Zweep. However, such solutions typically require a dedicated blade per user, he said.

Carl Wolfston, director of Headlands Associates, a Pleasanton, Calif.-based solution provider, said it will be interesting to see how the concept differs from that of a thin client connected to a Citrix server. However, he said, the concept makes sense. "It's nice; you don't have to have someone in the field fixing so many PCs."

HP is also extending its pay-for-use program to include its Integrity Itanium-based servers and its printers, said van der Zweep. Under this program, customers are billed on a monthly basis for processor use in the servers and can monitor their usage via a secure portal on a daily basis.

That kind of granularity in pay-per-use will be welcomed by customers that need extra processing power for specific tasks, such as running financials at month-end or year-end, but not for the rest of the time, Wolfston said. "If they can get the extra power when they need it, then turn it off when things are slower, it's a great idea," he said.HP is also extending its Virtual Server Environment to integrate BEA WebLogic Server and Oracle9i Database, van der Zweep said.

Under the Virtual Server Environment, the customer does not have to specify the number of servers or processors dedicated to an application or turn those processors on and off manually. Instead, the user specifies the service-level agreement--for instance, a quarter-second response time--and the Virtual Server Environment scales the processors and servers up and down to meet the requirements, he said.

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