Compaq and Samsung today detailed their attempt to revitalise the Alpha processor with a $400 million cash investment in new products, marketing and research.
Compaq has signed a memorandum of understanding with Alpha partners Samsung and Alpha Processor Inc (API) to jointly invest the money in new markets for Alpha and in shared technology development.
API is an Alpha marketing and manufacturing unit jointly owned by Samsung, with 87 per cent share, and Compaq.
The companies said the total additional investments in Alpha could exceed $1.5 billion over the next five years. Compaq recently announced it planned to spend $100 million on marketing its Tru64 Unix product, which runs on Alpha.
The announcement includes:
* Possible deal for API to supply low end workstations and servers to Compaq
* Expanding Alpha into markets such as thin servers, network appliances and telecommunications infrastructure devices
* Samsung to bring copper technology and other advanced processor technologies to Alpha
* Independent software vendor support to increase by 400 per cent
* Doubling of sales support expenditure plus new marketing campaign
* API to get architectural license
* ISV partnerships, such as with Cygnus, to develop set of open source tools to help increase number of Linux on Alpha applications
* Collaboration between API and AMD on related chip technologies, such as Lightning Data Transport
Compaq is currently investing about $150 million per year on Alpha R&D, with around 500 developers, according to analyst Terry Shannon, author of the Shannon knows Compaq newsletter. This new expenditure will significantly increase Alpha's market opportunities, he said.
"If I were Compaq I would do anything I could to bang the Alpha drum," said Shannon.
One possible market Alpha could target hard is Linux, where there are already some very high performance implementations but where the real growth market is in low end Linux servers, particularly for telcos and ISPs.
"The API architectural license would provide for a low cost Alpha implementation, particularly if you are looking at the Linux market where you want a cheaper chip, say with less cache, to reduce the overall cost of a Linux product. API would have free rein to do this," he said.
Martin Hingley, analyst at IDC, said this move would help Compaq regain some long term credibility for its Alpha and Tru64 products.
"Until this my gut feeling was that there was not much of a future for Alpha...that it was not quite as strategic for Compaq," he said.
Hingley noted Samsung had tried to develop a low price workstation strategy for some years, including with Hewlett-Packard - and that this announcement might signal a renewed attempt on that market.
IDC figures show Alpha sales actually increased in the third quarter of this year, despite ending the project to put Windows 2000 on the processor. Hingley said between five per cent and seven per cent of Alpha sales were already for the Linux platform, a higher percentage than competitors.
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