Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) has begun running an experimental service on one of its two large utility data centres (UDC) in what the company says is a step toward a broad distributed services market carried out on utility computing.

The company's UDC in Bristol, England, is running a pilot animation rendering service for local film animation company Animator 422, in which it converts the models produced by artists into the final frames of film footage, HP said Wednesday.

The company believes that providing intensive computing services for companies like Animator 422 is the future of utility computing, and has been testing the market by inviting companies to view and learn more about its UDC labs. In addition to the Bristol UDC, HP has another in Palo Alto, California, where the company has its headquarters.

"We are looking toward an open market for computer resources where computing is based on supply and demand," said John Manley, a researcher at HP Labs Bristol.

Around 30 companies have already expressed interest in UDC computing services, Manley said. News and media companies seem to be a natural fit because of their last-minute computing needs, he added, but HP foresees that a host of other industries would also be interested in utility computing services.

Manley added that HP has no immediate plans to become a service provider, however, and instead hopes to sell its UDC technology to enterprises and service providers.

The pilot service being done in Bristol is also meant to underscore HP's "agile enterprise" push and also test its own abilities to package services on top of computing power.

"We are walking before we run," Manley said.