HP Galway wins second major cloud computing deal

7 Sep 2010

HP’s 500-strong Galway operation has won a second major cloud computing deal with GS1 to deploy a cloud-based product recall system that tracks, traces and recalls potentially harmful food, healthcare and other products from the supply chain.

The deal comes a year after HP’s Galway operations revealed it began work with the Canadian arm of GS1 – a global not-for-profit organisation – to deploy a similar service. The operation expects to announce other major contracts in the coming months.

HP’s Galway operations, which includes the company’s Cloud Competency Centre, began life 40 years ago as part of Digital Equipment Corporation. Back then it was all about manufacturing, today it is all about R&D.

The recall service developed in Galway allows retailers and manufacturers to work together seamlessly in a recall situation via the internet cloud and has the potential to save lives and save brands’ reputations by rapidly and automatically removing products from the shelves.

The service, GS1 Recallnet, will run on the HP cloud computing platform for manufacturing, which allows companies to see and share information across the supply chain. It allows Australia to rapidly exchange recall notifications both within the border of its own supply chain and with other countries.

Food and consumer products organisations can use the service to reduce errors, decrease the amount of time it takes to respond to a recall, and mitigate the costs associated with managing the recall process.

“GS1 Recallnet will reinvent the way recall information is handled between businesses,” said Maria Palazzolo, chief executive officer, GS1 Australia. “By extending existing GS1 services, to offer the industry additional functionality for product withdrawal and recall, GS1 Australia is able to assist in improving consumer safety.”

This year, a review of the Australian product safety recall system by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), revealed that in 2009 there were 779 recalls in Australia, some involving many thousands of products. The report said that the average return rate across recalls for all Commonwealth regulators is 56.75pc

Phase 2 of the cloud revolution

The head of HP’s Galway operation and a well-known expert in all e-commerce related matters, Chris Coughlan, told Siliconrepublic: “One of the great things about the cloud is that it is a connectivity and collaboration enabler.

“In the case of food distribution, one of the things that was always missing is the ability to co-operate when there was a problem with food. This can be a matter of life and death, it can impinge on a brand’s reputation and it can be costly to remove something from the food chain.

“The system in Galway is a recall system using the cloud. Once people subscribe to the recall system, once there’s a recall all associated entities in the supply chain will be notified.

“People talk about cloud and platforms as a structure involving software as a service and infrastructure as a service at one level, now we’re bringing this to another level where we can actually add everything as a service and start building services beyond the platform.

“This was always something that was missing. There have always been solutions and networks in an organisation but no path for collaboration between enterprises. This is the equivalent to Web 2.0 social networking but at an enterprise IT level,” Coughlan explained.

Coughlan said the plan is to export the cloud model via GS1 from North America and Australia to Asia and Europe.

“There are many prospects for this. This is only the forebearer of what the potential of the cloud can mean for a host of other areas.”

HP’s Cloud Competency Centre in Galway is part of the computer giant’s 500-strong organisation in Galway, where most of the workers today are engaged in R&D and Coughlan said he is open to working with local software companies to help them get the most out of the cloud opportunity.

“Ireland has a great opportunity as far as the cloud is concerned. Platform as a service, software as a service and infrastructure as a service are really just phase 1 of the cloud. The new recall service signals a move in the direction of phase 2 of the cloud where collaboration is key.

“The cloud is an opportunity for businesses everywhere to reduce operational and capital investment. In terms of the current world economic situation, this is a very attractive prospect.

“From an Irish job opportunity or Government implementation opportunity, currently there are really no barriers at the moment. Again, I believe that working with fledgling Irish software companies is key. We are open to seeing what they’re producing and help to ‘cloudify’ them,” Coughlan said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years