HP, Intel, Yahoo Study Ways to Make Web a Utility

SAN FRANCISCO(Reuters) – Three tech giants — Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Yahoo –said on Tuesday they are teaming up on a research project to help turnWeb services into reliable, everyday utilities.

The companies are joining forces with academic researchers in Asia,Europe and the United States to create an experimental network thatlets researchers test "cloud-computing" projects — Web-wide servicesthat can reach billions of users at once.

Their goal is to promote open collaboration among industry, academicand government researchers by removing financial and logisticalbarriers to working on hugely computer-intensive, Internet-wideprojects.

Founding members of the consortium said they aim to create a levelplaying field for individual researchers and organizations of all sizesto conduct research on software, network management and the hardwareneeded to deliver Web-wide services as billions of computer and phoneusers come online.

"No one institution or company is going to figure this out," saidPrabhakar Raghavan, the head of Yahoo Research who is also a consultingprofessor of computer science at nearby Stanford University.

Cloud computing has become the industry’s biggest buzzword. It is acatch-all term to describe how Internet-connected hardware and softwareonce delivered as discreet products can be managed as Web-based,utility-like services.

"Potentially the entire planet will come to rely on this, likeelectricity," Raghavan said, referring to the push to make everythingfrom daily communications to shopping to entertainment intoalways-available, on-demand Web services.

"We are all trying to move from the horse driving the wagon to amillion ants driving the wagon," Raghavan said of the need to letcomputers manage millions of small jobs, adding that the availablecapacity on the Web would vary widely. "The challenge can be a billionants one day and a million ants the next."

Big industry players from Google Inc to Microsoft Corp to IBM alljumped on the cloud-computing as a way to create Web services on anunprecedented scale — in effect, forming barriers to entry for smallercompanies.

By contrast, HP, the world’s top computer maker, Intel, the biggestmaker of semiconductors, and Yahoo, a Web pioneer with some of thebiggest audiences for online services, are creating an open network runon data centers from many companies.

"It is an overstatement to say we have a firm grip on all thetechnical challenges involved," said Intel Research vice presidentAndrew Chien, adding: "It’s not that easy for small innovators to dothings" that run reliably across the Web.

Chien said Intel’s involvement will help it learn how to build chipsto power ever-larger Web tasks but use less energy. The chipmaker alsosees a general benefit to the industry by encouraging the widestpossible participation by researchers.

HP, Intel and Yahoo have partnered with the state-run InfocommDevelopment Authority of Singapore, the University of Illinois atUrbana-Champaign — which 15 years ago gave birth to the Web browser –and Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. The Illinoispartnership also involves the U.S. National Science Foundation.

The test network will consist of data centers run by each of the sixinitial partners, and be based largely on HP hardware and Intelmicroprocessors. Machines at each location will dedicate 1,000 to 4,000processor chips, backers said.

(Editing by Braden Reddall)