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HP boosts pay-as-you-go server plan

Hewlett-Packard's financing group expands a program under which customers leasing HP servers are charged precisely for how much processing power they're using.

Hewlett-Packard's financing group has expanded a program under which customers leasing HP servers are charged precisely for how much processing power they're using.

Under the service,


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software on the computer monitors exactly how much computing power is used--down to a fraction of a processor--then encrypts the data and sends it to HP, which charges the customer accordingly. HP offered a similar service previously, but it measured only whether a processor was used.

The move is a step toward the ultimate vision of "utility computing," an idea sweeping the computing landscape. The concept is named after utilities such as gas or electricity, for which companies pay according to what they use and don't have to worry about building their own refineries or power plants.

The sales pitch is aimed particularly at customers that have occasional surges in computing needs but that don't want to pay for the expensive computers necessary to accommodate that peak activity.

Utility computing dovetails with IBM and HP outsourcing services, under which the companies run customers' data centers. Sun Microsystems refuses to offer such services but points customers to partners such as EDS.

IBM offers a pay-per-use plan for oil and gas companies that want to rent supercomputer capacity. It also rents out access to Linux running on its mainframe computers, which are designed to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously and respond quickly to changing workloads.

HP's improved pay-per-use service applies to its higher-end Unix servers with eight, 16, 32 or 64 processors, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company said. The service is currently available in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. HP plans to launch it in the Asia-Pacific region soon.

IBM, too, is pushing utility computing, underwriting its "on-demand" initiative with $10 billion.

Not all are as convinced of the full merits of utility computing. One skeptic is Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president of Sun Microsystems' software group.

"I don't believe in metered billing," Schwartz said in a recent interview regarding Sun's Orion plan to package all its software together. "For the most (part), customers aren't that interested in having me sniff around" their systems, tracking how many e-mail messages they send, how many usernames and passwords they use, Schwartz said.