The service is built around a computer and storage system that keeps track of all the servers, networking details and storage systems in a large company's data center. Working from a central console, administrators can take actions such as reassigning some servers to handle e-business transactions instead of sifting through records looking for suspicious credit card purchases.
"You can move resources around on the fly," said Nick van der Zweep, marketing director for services at HP.
The advantage is that servers can be set to accomplish whatever task is most pressing at the moment, he said. Without the service, a company would have to buy more servers that would go idle during off-peak periods.
"You can move infrastructure from 35 percent to 75 percent utilization," van der Zweep said. That means cost savings that HP believes will quickly offset the steep price tag for the service.
"To get started, it's $1 million-plus, depending on the size of the data center," with a more typical price in the $2 million to $2.5 million range, van der Zweep said. Some customers will be able to cut that down if they already have hardware that can be used to run the centralized administration software, he added.
The move reinforces HP's push into the services business, an area where large customers pay to have companies such as HP, EDS or IBM worry about the trials and tribulations of technology. Facing slumping revenue from servers, PCs and printers, HP is trying to boost sales from services, software and storage systems.
For now, HP's system must be run by a person, but future versions will have automated features so the data center can respond on its own. That puts it in the same area as IBM's eLiza initiative, which is designed to let servers and collections of servers automatically respond to changing conditions.
The system also automatically covers "failover," an otherwise expensive option in which one server can take over for a comrade that has crashed. Another plus: Unused servers switch themselves off to save power and can be fired up again when needed.
The system thus far can run servers from HP and Sun Microsystems, storage systems from HP and EMC, and networking equipment from HP or Cisco Systems.
The service monitors which are running on which computers, so computer users can be appropriately charged for how much computing capacity they consume, he said.
HP's service will be generally available in March, van der Zweep said. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company is working with the Lighthouse Group to offer the service, he added.