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Dramatically lowering IT costs, bidding for compute resources, a "virus-safe" desktop and more


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Business woman and man using PDA and cell phone outside of building

By Jamie Beckett, Oct. 2005

How's this for research results? Thanks in part to technology from HP Labs, HP was able to squeeze more use out of its IT resources and dramatically cut global IT costs.

The technology: It's actually a bundle of software innovations called SASU, for shared application server utility, which allows organizations to consolidate IT resources, securely pool and share them and more easily design, test and deploy new applications.

"In our own IT function, at a global level, we reduced Total Cost of Ownership by 70 percent, increased utilization by 300 percent -- and saved millions of dollars in hardware, people and software," said Dick Lampman, HP senior vice president for research and director of HP Labs.

But utility computing technologies like SASU have the potential to do much more than cut IT costs, Lampman told executives attending HP's Government and Education IT Summit in San Diego, CA.

"Utility computing can and will make government more efficient, education more effective and average citizens more empowered," Lampman said.

A "stock market" for IT?

The shared application server utility is just a first step. What's next?

"What if you need compute power, but don't know how much you'll need to get your job done?" Lampman asked. "You can already purchase by the hour but what if you want the option of buying when it’s cheap? How would you do that?"

Researchers at HP Labs have been working on a market-resource allocation tool they call "tycoon" that could one day allow organizations to bid for processor cycles, memory, disk storage and network bandwidth.

"It is like a 10-second-or-less stock market or bidding on eBay," Lampman said.

Today, the technology is being tested by CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, doing formidable work in grid-computing research, and in HP Labs, where a financial services prototype is being developed.

"The agility of this system goes beyond anything being sold today," Lampman said. For example, a user running an application who realizes he's not going to finish on time would have the option of pumping additional funds into the project and obtaining additional IT resources that would speed up processing.

Personalized printing

That's one kind of agility. In a whole different take on agility, researchers are developing advanced technologies for HP's Indigo digital press, which makes it possible for organizations to produce low-cost, short-run printed documents that have the look and feel of high-end offset printed materials. Brochures, manuals, handouts and other documents can even be personalized.

"This capability to personalize can bring surprising results," Lampman said, noting that a Idaho college last year increased its response rate to a recruiting brochure from 2 percent to 18 percent by using brochures personalized with prospective students' first names and materials on academic and extra-curricular programs tailored to individual students' interests.

The high image quality is determined by the unique technology used in the press. It’s called liquid electrophotography – LEP for short. LEP uses wet ink particles instead of the dry toner that’s used by all other digital presses.

Trust and security

Another key area of focus at HP Labs is on building trust and security at all levels of computing systems. In one key project, HP and industry partners have created a Trusted Platform Module that would provide a secure hardware platform. This platform could then be used to verify all of the software on an organization's system.

Another technology, called Trust Record, is designed to transform the complexity of audit and management system reports to something as simple as a standard utility bill. In addition, the data also provides the data protection required by government regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley.

Virus-safe computing

But researchers aren't just focused on large computing systems. One team is developing software that could provide virus-safe computing at the desktop level. Currently, all major operating systems are designed in such a way that each program mirrors the rights of the logged-in user, meaning it has open access to anything on the user's PC.

The problem, Lampman said, "is that every program you run is allowed to do anything you can do, whether you want it done or not."

The researchers' program is based on the Principal of Least Authority – a technique that limits the rights of each computer program.

"Our researchers believe each program should only have the authority it needs to do the job the user wants done," Lampman said. "Security, privacy and trust issues are ongoing, priority areas of research in HP Labs."

Jamie Beckett is managing editor of the HP Labs Web site and a veteran newspaper reporter and editor.

Related links

» Dick Lampman's page

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More about technologies in this article:

Automating IT management

» Feature story
» Technical report

Market-based resource allocation

» Feature story
» Technical paper

Indigo digital presses

» Products

Trusted computing

» Research page

Trust record

» Feature story

Virus-safe computing

» Feature story
» Technical report

HP's Indigo digital press

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