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HP nearly goes ASP

Looks to the LOB

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Application Service Providers (ASPs) may be one of those flash in the pan solutions-to-every-problem-you-ever-thought-of that the IT industry is good at thinking up every now and then, but despite the fact it pretty much crashed and burned the notion is not without some merit.

Witness, for example, how "Version 2" of the ASP model is being exploited with increasing success by the likes of NetSuite and salesforce.com. Now it looks like HP is starting to offer its version of the idea.

This is certainly one way of looking at the new extension of its Application Provisioning Service version of the Flexible Computing service announced last November. As well as offering online compute resources to customers it is now setting out to tackle specific Lines Of Business (LOBs) where access to extensive but sporadic resources makes sense.

These are areas such as aerodynamic design and analysis, structural engineering, gene sequencing, financial modelling or Computer-Aided Engineering. It is in the latter LOB that HP has announced one of the first targeted APS's. This has involved HP in packaging up as an online service technology from the likes of Platform Computing, DataSynapse, United Devices, Altair Engineering and PathScale, as well as specific applications technologies from MSC, LSTC and Fluent.

This is then made available to customers as an online resource to be used either on an agreed schedule or as an ad hoc service.

In addition, it has also started to partner with specialist applications vendors to give them ASP-like service capabilities. One of the first to be signed up is Codefarm, which has come up with an application for automatically structuring Collateralised Debt Obligations (CDOs) - which to mere mortals are financial investment packages of fearsome complexity, aimed at high-roller investors. Each one will normally be worth a minimum of $10m and the market is said to be worth $500bn a year. Till Codefarm came along, each one was hand-rolled by expert CDO structuralists - mere bean-counters they are not.

Codefarm's tool is called Galapagos - because it is based on techniques known as Evolutionary Computing. In essence, this is using the models of biological evolution and Darwinian survival of the fittest as the model for testing the predicted lifecycles of many possible investment plans, in order to see which produces the best result - the ultimate trip for Excel-armed "what-if games" junkies.

Till now the company has been selling the application to major investment banks as an application package, but now it hopes to target a wider investment community via the online, service-based model. In addition to CDOs, the company is also aiming to produce a version of Galapagos aimed at the hedge fund management market, where an online service could prove attractive. ®

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