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Compaq moves into consulting

The PC leader will make its foray into consulting next week with a Web service to simplify corporate applications.

NEW YORK--Compaq Computer will make its foray into the consulting business next week with the release of a Web-based service that will attempt to simplify the process of adopting enterprise applications from vendors such as SAP and Baan.

To be announced June 22, activeAnswers will essentially be a technical library detailing the requirements and costs methodologies required for adopting a variety of "back-end" server-centric technologies, according to Ronnie Ward, vice president and general manager of the enterprise solutions division at Compaq.

Currently, these sort of services are developed and delivered through system integrators such as EDS or Andersen Consulting for several thousands of dollars.

The activeAnswers library will not eliminate the need for these consultants--or Compaq?s new integration and services group it acquired from Digital--to perform the actual implementation of these solutions. Instead, the new library is designed to take much of the mystery out of the process and in the end drive down the cost and risk of deployment.

"We're trying to remove the grunt work of implementing solutions," Ward said. "We are enabling someone to do it [install SAP R/3 or other high end systems] who couldn't do it before."

The information on the site will mostly be generalized. However, the site will feature a function where subscribers can input their exact corporate configurations and requirements and receive back an approximate estimate on the cost of certain implementations.

The first two modules will center around adopting SAP R/3 and creating a web hosting service based around Microsoft technologies. Other modules will appear in the future and will likely center around technologies from Oracle and Baan.

The impetus for the development of the service comes from what Compaq believes is the next wave in computing: namely, the technological standardization around core corporate backbone technologies. Similar to what happened with desktop operating systems close to a decade ago, customers are congealing around technological standards.

In turn, this enables vendors to commoditize their offerings, which lowers prices and speeds adoption. "Solutionware" is the term Compaq uses to describe how services and these back-end software technologies will be merged into one product.

"We are trying to drive a new computing industry solution model," he said. "Soon, we will see that there is not an application that can't be done by industry standard technologies."

Target customers will be large organizations, who typically review the costs and methodologies required to adopt certain technologies, as well as Compaq integration partners.

Subscription pricing has not been set. Ward, however, said that subscribers will pay an annual set fee for access to the database.