Move furthers company's simplification strategy

LAWRENCEVILLE - Hewlett-Packard, the second-largest personal computer maker in the world, announced plans last summer to cut costs, simplify its business structure and put greater focus on its customers.

While that strategy didn't specify building a new data center in Gwinnett, it at least got the ball rolling in that direction.

On Wednesday, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard said it was taking its 85 data centers worldwide - buildings filled with thousands of computers that form the information backbone of the company - and combining them into six next-generation technology hubs.

Gwinnett will bear the fruit of that decision: a 200,000-square-foot data center in Suwanee that could employ up to 140 people with an average salary of $60,000.

Alpharetta is the other site chosen in Georgia. Four more data centers are going into Texas, two in Houston and two in Austin.

For Gwinnett, landing Hewlett-Packard means the county takes a step in getting back some of the thousands of high-paying job lost following the dot-com crash a few years ago.

For Hewlett-Packard, the move means a host of things, including the capability to cut the telecommunications and data transmission costs that made up about 40 percent of its information technology spending.

"The data centers will provide our business with more dependable, simplified operations," Randy Mott, executive vice president and chief information officer, said in a press release.

"This effort will enable faster delivery of new technologies, services and information and provide room for growth and improved business continuity, while significantly reducing costs."

Such a large consolidation will also mean job cuts.

Some 15,300 are expected by the end of the company's first quarter in 2007, according to a restructuring plan the Hewlett-Packard Board of Directors approved last year.

The company's older data centers needed a lot more employees to maintain such a massive array of computers. Data centers like the one in Suwanee will rely more on automation, "taking advantage of every piece of technology HP has created," said spokesman Mike Moeller.

Several factors led Hewlett-Packard to choose metro Atlanta, Houston and Austin to showcase its new data centers, including a strong telecommunications and power infrastructure in those cities. Even the lower risk of earthquakes, hurricanes and other types of natural disasters played a role.

Soaring energy costs are part of the equation, too.

The information technology industry has been investigating ways to reduce the enormous amount of power data centers use to keep all those computers cool. So Hewlett-Packard designed its new wave of tech hubs with what it calls smart cooling technology, saving 25 percent on the power bill.

In a prepared statement, CEO Mark Hurd said, "These facilities will serve as a model of the next-generation data center that HP believes represents the future of enterprise computing."