Compaq dons flares for data centre revival

When Compaq did away with its consumer and commercial personal computing units in May, combining them in a new "access business group", I wondered what on earth it was up to.

When Compaq did away with its consumer and commercial personal computing units in May, combining them in a new “access business group”, I wondered what on earth it was up to.

Access to what, was the question that popped into my head. I wasn’t curious enough at the time to ask anyone, putting the whole thing down to some seasonal marketing manoeuvre.

Now, though, the picture’s been filled in somewhat.

In a more recent announcement, Compaq has revealed its “computing on demand” offering which, in this part of the world, will be made available as part of its “service provider programme”. I write service provider programme in quotation marks because, like access business, these are not words that have historically been used to describe Compaq customers and partners. What they signify is a fundamental change in the way computer systems are being sold.

What Compaq is doing is teaming up with service providers who will then go out to you, computing’s end users, offering some level of managed service. Compaq’s undertaking to the service provider is to supply it with a hardware platform on which to build its service; once the service provider has hooked up a customer Compaq starts being paid, according to how much server and storage capacity is being used.

Access devices — desktop PCs, thin clients, handheld devices — as sold by Compaq’s freshly minted access business group, connect the end user to the service provider.

Compaq’s pitch for this new way of selling computing is the total cost of ownership appeal. It says most organisations can expect to make significant savings by buying a managed service and it enlists the help of Gartner Group to demonstrate how. Its consultants employ Gartner’s TCO Lifecycle model for a quick snapshot of the benefits, or will carry out a detailed analysis where called for, which might take a few weeks.

But the whole scheme is so new that the service provider programme hasn’t been formally launched yet. Before doing so, Compaq wants to create an accreditation process for service providers to pass through, so that they don’t go around dragging down Compaq’s good name by selling shonky services.

Who might these service providers be? Well, no prizes for anyone who picks esolutions as one. While not yet accredited, and while labouring under the handicap of not being a legal entity (so suppliers and customers can’t have a straightforward contractual relationship with esolutions, but must deal with one of the three alliance partners – EDS, Microsoft and Telecom — which make up the virtual company), it is providing services based on Compaq’s computing on demand model. And it has plans to launch a new offering, to be called AIP (for application infrastructure provision, a vehicle for Microsoft’s .Net web services), on top of its existing services.

I said that this was a new way of selling computing. It’s not, of course, although the bureau services of the past that it bears a close resemblance to have been out of fashion for a decade or so. But its revival won’t be a surprise to anyone who’s recently fished a pair of flares out of the cupboard where they’ve been kept company by a couple of old green screens rescued from the DP centre.

Doesburg is Computerworld’s editor. Send email to Anthony Doesburg. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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