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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.

Compaq Computer unveiled a new Web-based library that will attempt to simplify the process of adopting enterprise applications from vendors such as SAP and Baan.

Called activeAnswers, as previously reported, the new service is essentially 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.

ActiveAnswers is also part of a larger effort by Compaq to boost revenue associated with computing services, an initiative that kicked off with the Digital Equipment acquisition . Currently, these sort of services are developed and delivered through system integrators such as EDS or Andersen Consulting, and are worth several billion dollars annually. IBM has repeatedly said that it will look toward consulting as one of its chief sources of revenue and earnings in the future. Until it bought Digital, which has a services division of several thousand employees, Compaq had only a nominal presence in this market.

The activeAnswers library will not eliminate the need for these consultants--or the integration and services group Compaq recently 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 general in nature. 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 sell their offerings as commodities, 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," Ward said. "Soon, we will see that there is not an application that can't be done by industry standard technologies."

Compaq will target large organizations, which 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.