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HP introduces new utility-computing service

New data-crunching application for computer-aided engineering taps into the technology used for "Shrek 2" and "Madagascar."

Hewlett-Packard has been looking to sex up its utility computing efforts by adding a dose of Hollywood to the mix.

The company introduced a new application Tuesday that incorporates technology created by its research labs and DreamWorks Animation for last year's productions of "Shrek 2" and "Madagascar." The program, which HP will run and maintain for customers at its own data centers, performs computer-aided engineering analysis.

For instance, energy companies can use the system to run computing-intensive simulations, such as creating 3D models of oil and gas fields, HP said. HP sees demand for the application among financial services and health sciences companies as well.

HP has signed up several computer-aided-engineering companies to provide software for the system, including Fluent, Livermore Software Technology, MSC.Software and Dassault Systems' Abaqus. They're each working with HP to offer customers a flexible payment scheme that complements HP's utility computing model, the company said.

The new program is part of HP's continuing foray into utility computing, which involves paying for computer processing power as it's consumed. Under its HP Flexible Computing Services banner, the company provides various combinations of servers, data center space, and system-management software and services, charging customers based on actual usage.

Per-hour prices range from 55 cents to $1.50 per processor, depending on the type of package.

HP rival Sun Microsystems has been working on its own utility service, called the Sun Grid, under which it will sell access to Sun servers for $1 per processor per hour. However, Sun is still fine-tuning the product and has released it only to a select group of customers.

Sun announced Tuesday that InTechnology, a United Kingdom partner, will offer two services atop Sun's future Grid Storage Utility: Sun Grid Remote Backup and Restore Service (RBR), which lets customers back up data, and Sun Grid Remote File Vault (RFV), which lets customers store files remotely.

With HP Flexible Computing Services, customers have a choice of machines, including HP ProLiant systems with Intel Xeon or Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron processors and HP Integrity servers with Intel Itanium chips. All major operating systems are available as well, HP said.

CNET's Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.