HP Aims for IBM, Sun Customers

Hewlett-Packard is rolling out products aimed at attracting IBM and Sun Unix customers to HP-UX running on the company's Itanium-based Integrity systems. HP and IBM are competing aggressively in a space that, although it still involves big money, is continuing to shrink.

Hewlett-Packard is rolling out new products and a new financing offer to lure away enterprises now running high-end IBM and Sun Microsystems.

The offerings, announced April 1, constitute the latest push in an ongoing tug-of-war between HP and IBM to attract users to their own high-end, non-x86 platforms, and to scoop up Sun Microsystems customers who may be looking for an alternative in the wake of Oracle's $7.4 billion purchase of the tech company.

As HP officials announced the new offerings, they also highlighted three companies that recently made the move from IBM or Sun systems to HP's HP-UX Unix platform running on their Itanium-based Integrity servers.

South Korean tire manufacturer Kumho Tire chose HP's high-end Integrity Superdome to replace its IBM mainframe environment. Bernalillo County in New Mexico chose Integrity blades as an alternative to its IBM mainframe, while VTB Bank in Russia opted for HP Superdome and Integrity blades as an upgrade over its Sun environment.

To help enterprises make the move, HP is enhancing its Solaris to HP-UX Porting Kit, designed to help make it easier and faster for enterprises to make the move. In addition, the new Solaris Software Transitioning Kit offers tools and documents to simplify the process of porting software from Solaris to Integrity systems and to help developers identify and fix compatibility problems between Solaris and HP-UX.

HP also is offering a free BladeSystem c7000 enclosure and Integrity BL860c server blade starter kit to enterprises that buy HP-UX 11i v3 and support until July 31. In addition, HP has a page on its Website for customers interested in comparing HP-UX with IBM's Unix variant, AIX.

HP, IBM and now Oracle are competing in a market where shipments and revenues are shrinking, but one that still took up more than 29 percent of the overall server revenue market in 2009, or about $14 billion. However, that market share was down from 36.2 percent in 2008, according to IDC.

The Unix server space is continuing to feel pressure from x86 systems, which have steadily taken workloads from the larger, more expensive servers over the past decade. The competition was ramped up even more March 30, when Intel unveiled its four- to eight-core Xeon 7500 "Nehalem EX" servers, which the chip maker is aiming at the RISC space.

However, new high-end platforms introduced earlier in 2010 could invigorate sales. IBM rolled out its Power7 platform around the same time that Intel launched the much-delayed next-generation Itanium 9300 "Tukwila" chips, which are particularly important to HP. About 85 percent of workloads running on Itanium are HP-UX.

In addition, Oracle is continuing to work on its 16-core SPARC T3 processor, code-named Rainbow Falls.

IBM officials expect the Power7 systems to encourage HP and Sun users to migrate. IBM has aggressively been courting HP and Sun customers, most recently in November 2009 by cutting memory prices on Power systems by 28 to 70 percent.

At the time, IBM officials said the company had seen solid success in raiding the customer bases of Sun and HP. In 2007 and 2008, IBM generated about $500 million in new business for its Power platform, about 80 percent of which came from HP and Sun customers, the officials said, adding that they expected to exceed that in 2009.

Sun saw a large number of customers move to competitors' products in 2009 after Oracle announced its plans to buy the company, a bid that was delayed until early 2010 because of an antitrust investigation into the deal by European regulators.