Hewlett-Packard today announced a new low end Unix server, the L Class, that will provide strong competition for its Unix competitors and Intel based NT systems - including its own.
Sun Microsystems has done particularly well against its traditional rivals in this segment of the market, with its Enterprise 250 and 450 servers stealing market share from Sun, IBM and Compaq. HP hopes the L Class, which it said was aggressively priced against Sun, will reverse that trend.
"It takes Sun's E450 three times the space to cope with the same number of hits as a rack mounted L Class. Calling the E450 rack mounted is like trying to get a cow into leggings," said Patrick Rogers, systems solutions marketing manager.
The majority of existing HP customers will have to upgrade their operating system to HPUX 11.0 if they wish to use this server or the N Class, announced in May. While HP describes the server as upgradeable to IA-64, this requires a motherboard swap, while the N can slot in Intel processors direct.
In the last 18 months the company has refreshed its whole Unix product line. The V Class at the high end, the N Class for its crucial mid range server market that provides more than 50 per cent of overall Unix server revenue and now the L Class is to replace the D Class in the low end entry level Unix market. This market segment contributes about 25 per cent of total hardware revenue.
Three years ago the L Class was almost certainly not on HP's radar, at least not in this form. Expectations then were that Intel and Windows NT would have sewn up this end of the server market and be threatening mid range Unix server products. NT's failure to achieve the required scalability and availability and IA-64's failure to arrive has changed all that, said HP executives.
"If we looked back at our planning cycle three years ago, it showed quite a different picture…HP has adapted its strategy accordingly," said Bill Russell, HP's chief operating officer.
Windows NT is some way from threatening the Unix marketplace, particularly for companies doing ecommerce that want high levels of reliability, claimed HP executives.
"NT is successful for collaborative applications such as file and print and some business applications on low end and entry level systems. Applications that need robustness, availability and manageability need HP UX. NT does not have that," said Janice Chaffin, vice president of the enterprise computing group.
She admitted that there was a 20 per cent price premium compared to a comparable four processor Intel server, but claimed the upgrade flexibility and bundled software made the Unix servers better value. There is some overlap with HP's own NT server products, but the company claimed its sales force would choose the best product to offer the customer and there would not be a conflict of interest.
The first two products in the L Class range will be the L1000 (one or two processors) and L2000 (one to four processors). Full retail prices will range from $16,000 for a basic L1000 up to around $60,000 for a fully configured L2000.
The L2000 will run PA Risc 8500 360MHz or 440MHz processors and can take up to 8Gbyte of memory, 10 PCI slots and four disk arrays.
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