HP and SAP are set to work together to resolve IT issues faced by their joint customers, particularly on virtualisation.

The collaboration will involve HP Labs teams in the UK, the U.S. and SAP Research staff in Australia, Germany and Northern Ireland. Most of the work will take place via "virtual" collaboration, according to Rich Friedrich, director of HP's Enterprise Software and Systems Lab.

The companies hope to take advantage of synergies between HP's Adaptive Infrastructure management technologies and SAP's Enterprise Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). The research work is being called the Adaptive SAP project.

Friedrich expects the research to result in both incremental and more significant technology developments. "What we're trying to do here is advance the state of the art," he said. "I think we'll look back at this announcement as the start of something quite significant."

The research will focus initially on hardware and software virtualisation, Friedrich said. The idea will be to find ways to maximise the use of HP servers by SAP enterprise applications so that customers can cut costs by decreasing the amount of hardware and software they use. The other initial driver for the research will be finding more ways to connect the demands of customers' businesses with their IT systems, he added.

The companies didn't provide any financial details of the partnership or say how many staff will take part. While some face-to-face meetings will take place, Friedrich didn't expect there to be any significant relocation of staff. There is no specified time limit for the agreement.

HP and SAP already have a close relationship dating back 17 years and previously collaborated at the business, research and development (R&D) and engineering levels. Nearly 50 percent of all of SAP's global installations run on HP hardware, Friedrich said.

While HP also has business and engineering partnerships in place with other applications vendors, including SAP rival Oracle Corp., the relationship with SAP is the most significant that HP has announced, Friedrich said.

HP and SAP may also conduct joint research into other areas including SOA semantics, business process analytics and asset tracking based on RFID technologies.

Application management will be an important factor in the joint research, Friedrich said, not only in relation to HP's soon-to-be-concluded US$4.5 billion acquisition of Mercury Interactive, but also its previous purchases of Peregrine Systems and Novadigm.