HP says IT pros need own social network

HP's near-beta social network, dubbed 48Upper, is about solving tech issues, not dating

WASHINGTON -- Despite the flood of existing social networking tools, Hewlett-Packard Co. will soon introduce its own social network, albeit specifically aimed at IT professionals.

It's called 48Upper and it comes with its own "manifesto," which says this about IT pros: "We have lived with the stereotype of being introverted, pessimistic loners for too long."

There's also video on that shows IT workers laughing, smiling and working in cubicles with stuffed animals.

This anti-Dilbert version of IT aside, 48Upper (which gets its name from a building an HP building in Cupertino, Calif.), incorporates familiar social networking tools, collaborative, friend-based, knowledge sharing, but is clearly aimed at users of HP system management tools.

The product is being readied for beta testing, and HP officials discussed some aspects of it at its software conference here.

There are a number of elements that make 48Upper different from the mainstream social networks.

Ever since e-mail, IT pros have networked with people outside their companies and institutions for help. The designers of 48Upper still expect users to seek out help from external IT folk, but this tool will have a few steps to help them filter out information that might reveal what a company might otherwise want to keep quiet.

Deliver as software-as-a-service (SaaS), 48Upper will be using the queries to build up technology libraries. The subscriber will be able control how the technical information is shared. If the information is tagged 'public," it will be available to other subscribers of service, otherwise it is kept for internal use.

"A lot of what we do in IT is not state secrets," said Matthew Schvimmer, senior director of HP Business Technology Operations products.

The technology information in 48Upper's database won't be limited to HP products, and Schvimmer said he expects 48Upper's library to have information on any technology used by an IT shop. The social network will also be able to take advantage of HP's business management systems and be used, for instance, to transmit alerts.

One HP management systems user, Henry Yam, vice president of enterprise management at asset management firm Neuberger Berman LLC, was unfamiliar with the service but saw potential in the concept, saying, "It would greatly help."

"Right now it's a hodgepodge world out there," said Yam, adding that IT workers may be running from vendor forum to another in search for an answer.

Schvimmer said the collaborative tools are particularly needed because IT pros today are handed responsibilities that may require some expertise across multiple disciplines, making the need for networking important.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com .

Read more about enterprise web 2.0/collaboration in Computerworld's Enterprise Web 2.0/Collaboration Topic Center.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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