Compaq Delays Shipping Server

Notes performance problem with the Itanium; Intel says related to the BIOS.

Compaq Computer Corp.s first Itanium-based server, announced in July, still is not ready to ship, despite word from Intel Corp. that it has resolved at least one problem that initially delayed the servers release.

Last month, Compaq disclosed that it had held off shipping its new Itanium server, the ProLiant 590/64, due to a performance issue the Houston-based company determined was related to the processor.

The new ProLiant is designed to support up to four Itanium processors. The Itanium, Intels first 64-bit chip, finally arrived on the market in May after several delays.

Compaqs support is crucial to Intels promotion of its Itanium processor since the computer maker is the largest seller of Intel-based servers in the world, according to the latest study by Gartner Dataquest, of San Jose, Calif.

Compaq officials did not offer specifics on the problems involving the companys Itanium server, but a company representative said its lab technicians noted "sightings" while putting the server through stress tests. "Sighting" is industry jargon denoting less-than-expected product performance.

Compaq spokesman Tim Willeford said at the time that the sightings appeared in tests on both the ProLiant server and a third-party "white box" server, leading Compaq to deduce that the problem was with the Itanium chip.

Intel, after being made aware of the problem by Compaq, said it determined that the issue was related to the BIOS used with the chip. A BIOS update was issued late last month, and the chip maker notified news outlets that the issue had been resolved.

The BIOS is a key piece of software a processor utilizes when a computer is first turned on and acts somewhat like an intermediary between the chip and the operating system.

While Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., stressed that Compaq was the only customer to report the problem with the Itanium, the chip maker said it is urging all manufacturers using the chip to update to the new BIOS.

Compaqs Willeford said his company has received the updated BIOS but still is not ready to begin shipping the server despite receiving the fix.

When asked whether the server, announced last summer, will ship before the end of the year, he said, "I really dont have the answer to that."

The delay may make customers wary of buying the server, especially since it contains relatively new technology, one IT manager said.

"Conservative companies like ours dont want to buy bleeding-edge technologies; we want something tried and true," said Brian Potts, network manager for Associated Food Stores Inc., in Salt Lake City. "If theyre already having trouble with it, I would tend to stay away from it."