Hewlett-Packard has confirmed analyst reports that it will not upgrade its existing K-class server line, but will force users to replace the whole box if they want performance improvements.
HP has guaranteed that it will continue manufacturing its existing K-class midrange Unix server models until 2001 for those companies wishing to keep the platform, particularly because the Year 2000 is fast approaching.
But the PA8500, the next generation of PA-Risc processor technology that HP will use in its Unix servers, will only be introduced in the new server range, codenamed Prelude and due to ship by June next year. It will be the first HP server product that is board upgradeable to Intel's IA64 architecture, codenamed Merced.
But Paul McGuckin, analyst at Gartner Group, cautioned users this week to negotiate good discounts when investing in the K-class range because they will be forced to swap out the entire box at some point.
Terry Walden, HP's UK marketing manager for HP/UX, said the K-class family had already stayed on the market longer than originally planned, and that it was standard for servers to be replaced periodically when components like the processor outgrew the chassis and architecture.
"If we go back through history, every computer manufacturer has had to go through these periodic iterations. But when you measure HP's ability to help customers through them, it has the best record in the industry," he said.
Sun Microsystems has been criticised recently for also forcing users to completely change their hardware if they want to move to its next generation of servers based on the Ultrasparc III processor, which is due to ship in the next 18 months.
Gartner's McGuckin also said users would be advised to get a good deal from Sun.
HP's Walden said details of the Prelude family would be revealed in December, but he expected HP to offer users very good trading in terms.
The Prelude machine will be an eight way server based on its new 64 bit 8500 processor, which will replace the 64 bit 8200. Walden refused to reveal what performance increases users could expect, but said that HP guaranteed to double overall systems performance in terms of TPC/C benchmarks every two years.
He confirmed that the company would continue to offer competitive upgrades to its PA-Risc processor technology for two years after Merced ships.
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