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Compaq Unveils New Unix Server Line

In a bid to better compete with Sun Microsystems, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard in the e-business and telecommunications arenas, Compaq Computer Corp. Tuesday unveiled its new AlphaServer GS series systems, billed as the fastest of machines designed to run Unix.

Tuesday's announcement about the products — codenamed "Wildfire" — was originally to have taken place in the first quarter, but Compaq experienced problems getting the systems ready for market. The new products will go head-to-head with IBM's (IBM) RS/6000 S80 and RS/6000 SP machines; Sun's (SUNW) E6500 and E10000 units; and Hewlett-Packard's (HWP) V2600 systems.

The series includes 8-, 16- and 32-way configurations, and are based on the Alpha EV67 731 MHz processor.

Target markets include e-commerce and Internet players, telecommunications providers, financial services firms, and technical computing companies. The company has already received 200 orders for the systems. Those expressing interest include E*Trade Group Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Lycos Inc..

The key feature of the AlphaServer system, which is likely to make it especially attractive to e-commerce players, is its expandability. Enterprises can get into the basic model — the GS80 — for around $100,000, and expand the system to 20 times its capacity, according to the Compaq.

"The importance of the infrastructure has never been greater," said Michael Capellas, Compaq president and chief executive officer.

"I really believe that 90 percent of the infrastructure that we're really going to need to make this stuff work, is yet to be deployed," he added.

This capability is critical in the Internet age, when companies are growing swiftly, and when the demands placed on computers increase with the complexity of the Web.

The systems also allow for partitioning that let users run several operating systems — or versions of an operating system — concurrently. This will enable customers to develop, test, and produce on the same server.

One possible drawback: The new systems do not run Windows NT or the newly-released Windows 2000. Compaq has chosen to create servers that only run Tru64 Unix and Open VMS. Eventually, Linux will be added. This decision will make it more difficult for smaller players — often running Windows NT — to migrate to Compaq's new machines.

However, technology hasn't been Compaq's biggest problem. Sending a consistent message to the marketplace has been. The company has undergone major management shifts — including the ouster of chief executive officer Eckhard Pfeiffer in April 1999, partially due to concerns about a lack of direction for the company.

"There is no question that we have not done the world's best job of marketing our products in the past," Capellas said in a press conference in New York.

Marketing plans for the new system include deals with partners, notably Oracle and a program for delivering unsolicited bids to potential new customers.

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