HP, Intel and 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 turn Web services into reliable, everyday utilities.

A computer is seen in this undated file photo. REUTERS/file photo

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

Their goal is to promote open collaboration among industry, academic and government researchers by removing financial and logistical barriers to working on hugely computer-intensive, Internet-wide projects.

Founding members of the consortium said they aim to create a level playing field for individual researchers and organizations of all sizes to conduct research on software, network management and the hardware needed to deliver Web-wide services as billions of computer and phone users come online.

“No one institution or company is going to figure this out,” said Prabhakar Raghavan, the head of Yahoo Research who is also a consulting professor of computer science at nearby Stanford University.

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

“Potentially the entire planet will come to rely on this, like electricity,” Raghavan said, referring to the push to make everything from daily communications to shopping to entertainment into always-available, on-demand Web services.

“We are all trying to move from the horse driving the wagon to a million ants driving the wagon,” Raghavan said of the need to let computers manage millions of small jobs, adding that the available capacity on the Web would vary widely. “The challenge can be a billion ants one day and a million ants the next.”

Big industry players from Google Inc to Microsoft Corp to IBM all jumped on the cloud-computing as a way to create Web services on an unprecedented scale -- in effect, forming barriers to entry for smaller companies.

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

“It is an overstatement to say we have a firm grip on all the technical challenges involved,” said Intel Research vice president Andrew Chien, adding: “It’s not that easy for small innovators to do things” that run reliably across the Web.

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

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

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

Details can be found at

Editing by Braden Reddall