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HP stepped up its grid computing attack on Thursday with a new set of consulting services for customers looking to manage large groups of servers and storage systems.

Never one to miss out on a services opportunity, HP plans to design and manage customers' grids to make sure they get the most out of their linked systems. This move builds on a strong history of grid computing programs started at Compaq. The old Compaq workers were early advocates of the open source Globus Toolkit, which has become a standard for creating grid architectures.

At the moment, grid computing is most popular with researchers. Institutions will open their data centers to each other, hoping to share information with ease. HP, IBM, Sun and others are praying the enterprise will follow suit.

Companies could link systems for the same data-sharing gains or to create a pool of hardware that could be applied to different tasks. In theory, workers in Asia could tap into the collected grid processing power during their day and then turn over the bulk of the servers to the U.S. for its prime business hours. Overall server usage goes up, money is saved and everyone is happy.

HP is looking to show customers how to set up these kinds of complex networks. There are a host of technical issues and security measures that need to be dealt with. HP already uses the Globus Toolkit as part of its Utility Data Center concept, which is basically a huge grid that links all of the hardware and software in a network. It's this experience that makes HP well-suited to handling grid issues, the company reckons.

HP expects the market for grid software and services to surpass $4 billion by 2008. It's hard to say exactly what that market would entail, since all of the major vendor are adding grid-like workload sharing technology to their core products. Think marketing talk such as virtualization. Lines are being crossed and where the grid starts and ends is already hard to tell.

HP has a product called the Grid Resource Topology Designer, which uses a GUI to map out a customer's grid architecture. Users can see the hardware in their network and then use the tool to determine if its enough to get a specific grid-computing task done.

HP also partners with Avaki and Platform Computing for extra help where needed. ®

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