RealTime IT News

HP Leaves Door Open For Opteron

Hewlett-Packard is standing firm on its support of Intel's Itanium processor, but now may be having a change of heart about AMD's Opteron chip.

Representatives with the Palo Alto, Calif.-based computer and printer maker told internetnews.com they are considering adopting AMD's 64-bit extensions -- commonly referred to as x86-64 -- for use in its servers. The assessment is the first time the company has openly admitted the Opteron processor has its merits and could even show up in a HP server one day.

"We recognize that the 64-bit x86 extensions and there is a market demand for it and we see that there is customer demand," John Miller, director of portfolio marketing for enterprise servers and storage, told internetnews.com. "To that end we are evaluating our options but it's too early to announce anything."

HP's investment in Itanium is legendary, having both funded the research into the EPIC architecture and stockpiling the chip in its high-performance servers.

To that end, on Monday, HP is introducing two Integrity servers (rx1600 and rx2600) based on low-voltage Intel Itanium 2 (Deerfield) processors. Both are priced below US $5,000.

While analysts do not generally categorize Opteron as a head-to-head winner over Itanium, AmTech Research analyst Mark Stahlman said the 64-bit extension market is one that HP can no longer ignore.

"We believe that the first opportunity for the x86-64 architecture will come in the low-end of the server and in the high-end of the desktop markets," Stahlman said in a recent newsletter to investors. "The server total unit opportunity in 2004 could be a million-plus servers growing to more than 3 million in 2005, and the desktop unit opportunity could be as large as 5 million plus in 2004 and more than 50 million in 2005."

HP rival Sun Microsystems is also putting on the squeeze and is expected to ship volume servers based on AMD's Opteron processors this spring. And if there is one thing HP can't stand, it is to lose sales to its systems vendor rival.

"We recognize the movements of our competitors and we'll make an announcement when the time is right," Miller said.

HP has even upped the ante in its anti-Sun campaign with the second phase of the its Sun Migration Program. On Monday, HP is planning to announce that it is joining with Intel to offer qualified U.S. customers up to $50,000 in services costs it would take to shift from a Solaris- based system to an HP one running HP-UX, Linux, or Microsoft Windows. The company said it is offering a 15 percent rebate off hardware costs in order to entice customers to move to HP ProLiant servers or a credit of up to 20 percent towards the purchase of HP Integrity servers.

The balancing act for HP's strategy becomes more complex regarding its core partner Microsoft , which plans to supply a 64-bit version of Windows XP and ship it later this year. Microsoft is currently shipping 64-bit Windows products for Intel's Itanium IA64 and the next-generation of Windows, code-named Longhorn, is expected to include a 64-bit IA64 version.

Miller said it is generally presumed that Longhorn -- currently scheduled for shipment in 2006 -- will be "64-bit optimized."

Still, HP is hedging its bets with Itanium by extending the capabilities of its NonStop Advanced Architecture to servers coming out early next year. The hardware due out early next year is expected to be managed by new versions of HP's OpenView software that allows users to cluster up to 1024 processors or combine up to 4080 processors in a wide-area network.

The company is also debuting an six new HP 9000 servers powered by new PA-RISC-based PA-8800 processors. In addition to the new 128-way HP 9000 Superdome, the new HP 9000 PA-8800-based servers include the 32-way rp8420-32 server, the 16-way rp7420-16 server, the 8-way rp4440-8 server, the four-way rp3440-4 server and the two-way rp3410-2 server.

HP has also introduced a new pay per use financing program for the HP StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array family, including the EVA3000 and EVA5000.as well as new StorageWorks tape libraries.

Miller said HP is making an evaluation release of the Open VMS version 8.1 operating system available for its Integrity servers. The company is also adding API support for a new application that manages workloads in virtualized environments in HP Lab's grid. The company is also banking on new HP OpenCall software, which adds in GPS and New M technologies to entice next-gen telecom customers. The company is also offering its brand of InfiniBand for clustered Integrity Servers sunning HP-UX.