HP Beefs Up Unix Server Line

New 16-way, robust rp8400 system comes with a pay-per-use program.

Hewlett-Packard Co. last week added high-end power to its "meat and potatoes" line of Unix products. The Palo Alto, Calif., company introduced the rp8400, a 16-way Unix server that brings some of the features found in its high-end Superdome system into the midrange segment of its product line.

The rp8400, priced at $124,000 for a base configuration, becomes the most powerful product in HPs midrange Unix product line, which accounts for more than 50 percent of the companys Unix server revenue.

With the new server, HP also is offering a pay-per-use program that one user said will be particularly attractive to businesses with seasonal swings in workload.

"The utility pricing is actually pretty appealing," said Dave Nardi, system administrator for The Yankee Candle Co. Inc., in South Deerfield, Mass.

The candle maker, whose products are sold at nearly 13,000 retail outlets, normally experiences seasonal fluctuations in business, which result in varying demands on its data center. The new pricing strategy will enable Yankee Candle and other HP customers to spend less upfront for a fully configured system.

"We are looking at the possibilities of configuring an rp8400 system at the level of our current HP N-Class servers but with the ability to use that utility pricing so we can just turn it on and have the extra horsepower during our busy season at the end of the year," Nardi said.

The enterprise server can handle up to 16 of HPs newest proprietary processors, the PA-RISC 8700, available in 650MHz and 750MHz clock speeds. HP said future versions of the system will also be able to use Intel Corp.s 64-bit Itanium processor.

The server also offers features previously found only in HPs top-of-the-line Superdome server, introduced last year, including enhanced partitioning capabilities and cell-based technology.

"Being able to reuse those high-end designs developed for Superdome in the midrange market is just like adding gravy to the meat and potatoes segment for HP," said Jonathan Eunice, an analyst for Illuminata Inc., in Nashua, N.H.

HPs midrange Unix server line upgrade comes after the company has lost ground in recent years to Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM.

"They have a very strong product line following their recent refreshment, but I think they are still being jostled by IBM," Eunice said.

The server supports two hard partitions and 16 virtual partitions, has capacity for 64GB of memory, and is available in pedestal or rack versions.

The rp8400 also comes in a relatively compact size, with its 29.75-inch rack version taking up less than half the size of two eight-way HP N-Class servers.