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Intel unrolls Blueprints program

The company is offering corporations a series of designs to get technology installations up and running faster--and maybe drum up some chip business as well.

Intel has sketched out a way for businesses to get complex technology installations up and running faster--and maybe drum up a little business for itself.

The chipmaker, under a program it calls Solutions Blueprints, is offering corporations a series of designs for systems intended to perform jobs such as managing finances or employee communications. The plans draw on software applications that run on Intel-based servers from a variety of companies.

The Blueprints program arises from an effort by Intel's Enterprise Solutions Division to create products geared toward industries such as telecommunications. Last May, for example, the company launched a line of telecom servers for PC makers and telecommunications-equipment companies, which in turn can add their own operating system and application software and then resell the machines to customers. IBM, for instance, is coming out with a telecom server this week based on the Intel blueprints.

Intel has increasingly been taking over more computer design functions for cash-strapped PC makers. It even sells a number of "building block" servers--that is, near-complete servers to which computer maker needs to add only two or three parts.

Now an expanded version of the industry-specific effort is ready for prime time, the company says, as some of the world's largest companies move to use server software for challenges ranging from financial accounting to data management.

By working with those companies and a variety of hardware makers, software makers and systems integrators, Intel says it has proven the worth of certain hardware and software bundles, or blueprints, that should eliminate much of the grunt work needed to deploy and test such programs.

One such project was the creation of a corporate portal, or internal Web site, for a large airline. Intel worked with Cap Gemini, Ernst & Young and Plumtree Software to create the site, which hosts corporate news and human resources, payroll and stock-option information.

The project was a "big aha!" for Intel, said Deborah Conrad, vice president and general manager of the chipmaker's Solutions Market Development Group, as companies realized that the completed project laid the groundwork for similar setups elsewhere.

Intel estimates that up to 80 percent of a given blueprint can be repeated across multiple installations at a variety of corporations. Repeating such a large chunk of a project's design helps to reduce the cost and time of getting it off the ground, and the project becomes easier to customize in certain areas because most of the work to create the underlying building blocks, including the software, servers and other elements, has already been done.

Intel posted several other blueprints on a new Web site Monday, with designs focusing on tracking and storing documents created by company employees and processing financial transactions more quickly. A company's chief technology officer could download a blueprint, contact the companies, and contract with them to set up a similar system, Conrad said.

"A lot of the solutions we're describing here are kind of high-end," she said. "But over time, our goal is to make it easer and faster for these solutions to come to market. Over time, they will waterfall down to smaller-size companies."

Intel is working with a wide range of companies to bring together and test the blueprints. It will also take advantage of its own facilities as well as those of its partners, including a relatively new Solution Center it built with Hewlett-Packard in Grenoble, France. The center has been charged with testing blueprints for the telecommunications market before releasing them. For some of the telecom blueprints, HP will be the integrator or consultant.

A boost for Intel's chips
The blueprints are free, but companies still have to buy the software and servers. The new program won't change how Intel sells its chips or other hardware, but it does tie into the revamping of the company's server strategy, designed to deliver new Xeon and Itanium processors that compete more closely with products from rivals such as Sun Microsystems.

At the same time, it benefits the company by ensuring that the software required to put projects such as corporate portals into use runs well on its server chips.

"Our goal is to make sure that all of the pieces of the puzzle work best on Intel architecture," Conrad said. "Our No. 2 goal is to make sure that solution is...priced competitively versus our competitors."

If the software works well with Intel's chips, the theory goes, then companies will continue to buy Intel-based servers. Server chips are some of the company's highest-priced offerings, so it's important, analysts say, for Intel to promote them.

"These are high-priced chips, but their (sales) volume is quite low," said Dean McCarron, principal at Mercury Research. "There's a lot of incentive for Intel to help fuel the market for server products."

By some accounts, the company's new 64-bit chips have gotten off to a slow start. The Blueprints program will cover current and future versions of the 64-bit Itanium, the next version of which, the 1GHz McKinley, is due later this year.

"I don't think there's any understating how important it is for Intel to get the IA-64 server market going along," McCarron said.

Many of the blueprint machines include Intel's newest processors, announced over the past few months, including the 2.2GHz, dual-processor "Prestonia" Xeon, the multiprocessor Xeon MP and a new dual-processor Pentium III aimed at blade servers.

Intel will offer blueprints for about 10 different industries to start. They include digital media, energy, financial services, government, manufacturing, oil and energy, packaged goods, retail sales, and telecommunications.

The company will kick off the Blueprints program with nearly 30 partners, including Cap Gemini, Compaq Computer, Deloitte Consulting, Dimension Data, EDS, Fujitsu-Siemens, HP, Microsoft, Plumtree, Plural, PWC Consulting, Questra, Scient, Siemens Business Services, Silverline, SpeechWorks, Stellcom, Triaton and Xcelerate.