Systems giant Hewlett Packard launched its latest Unix server on Monday, gambling that its transition plans will keep clients loyal until they can upgrade to the forthcoming IA-64 architecture, complete with Intel Merced chip.
The successor to the current IA-32 design, the IA-64 - based on Merced, which HP codesigned - will ship by the end of 1999. In the mean time, HP needs to keep its place in the top two in the Unix server market. This grew by around 10 per cent last year, headed by IBM and HP, but with Sun catching up fast from a smaller base.
William Russell, vice president of HP, shrugged off claims that the Unix market will be blown away by servers running Microsoft NT. ?The Unix server base is $26 billion so we won?t be replaced by Windows next Friday like some people are saying,? he said.
He added that HP's strategy is to compete with Sun on price/performance while also targeting smaller market players like Siemens. In competing with IBM, though, he said the value added service was the key.
Aware of the danger that an upgrade to IA-64 will scare off new clients, HP was keen to emphasise its transition package. Officials pointed out that the operating system on the new server - HP/UX 2.0 - is already compatible with the upcoming IA-64 and any other new models this year will also be compatible. The company will also offer upgrades and trade-ins of up to 25 per cent.
But a Sun representative said: ?At Sun we have our own version of Unix (Solaris) so we don?t have any upgrade problems. Anyway, Intel has chosen Solaris as its standard operating system.?
Hannah Kirkman, an analyst at Yankee Group, argued that HP has a poor record in forging industry standards and so dominating the market direction. ?HP tried to unify the industry round a platform of three dimensional architecture a couple of years ago, in an attempt to come up with a single version of Unix,? she noted. ?Vendors signed up to this but then dropped out. Although HP has a loyal customer base Sun has been taking business away from HP, so they need to be careful.?
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