Hewlett Packard (HP) has set a date for the launch of its long-awaited high-end server which it intends to position as a replacement to traditional mainframes.
The server, codenamed Superdome, will be launched by chief executive Carly Fiorina in New York on 12 September and will, according to the company's financial reports, cost around $1m. HP first discussed plans for Superdome in December 1998.
The latest version of HP's Unix platform, HP UX 11I, has been optimised to run on Superdome servers, which will initially feature 64bit PA Risc chips.
However, the server has been designed with Intel's forthcoming 64bit processor architecture (IA-64) in mind and will use Intel's McKinley second-generation 64bit chip when it becomes available. This is not expected until 2001 and HP is keeping its IA-64 roadmap close to its chest.
HP claims that the jump from PA Risc to IA-64 will be relatively painless for users because PA Risc-based code is binary compatible with IA-64, because it helped to design Intel's forthcoming processors.
Server upgrades can be completed by changing the processor board and backplane - the part of the system that disks and PCI-X (peripheral component interconnect extended) cards plug into.
Mark Lillycrop, director of research at Xephon, said the product would be aimed at the top end of the web server business - an area in which HP is particularly looking to take share away from arch rivals Sun Microsystems and IBM.
"HP is pushing an alternative mainframe message," said Lillycrop, adding that the traditional mainframe market is static and that there is little activity in terms of new applications.
"Providing you make the architecture robust and scalable enough it doesn't matter whether you use an MVS, NT or Unix-based system. It's an issue of management, scale and security; tools and operating environments are becoming standardised and are less important," he said.
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