HP, Sun Pump Up the High End

Both HP and Sun will drive performance gains through new chip designs and surrounding technologies. HP will implement Intel's Itanium 2 64-bit chip, and Sun will tout its dual-core UltraSPARC IV+ processor.

Enterprises that rely on high-end systems for their mission-critical tasks will see some significant performance improvements in upcoming servers from Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems Inc.

Both companies will drive the gains through new chip designs and surrounding technologies. HP will implement Intel Corp.s Itanium 2 64-bit chip, and Sun will tout its dual-core UltraSPARC IV+ processor.

HP this week will roll out enhanced midrange and high-end Integrity servers outfitted with the Itanium 2 9M processor. The latest generation of Intels 64-bit processor—with a larger memory cache, slight bump in speed and improved compilers—offers about a 25 percent performance increase over the previous Itanium 2 chip, according to officials with HPs Business Critical Systems Group.

HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., put the new chip in its low-end Integrity systems in November.

In addition, the company will roll out OpenVMS 8.2, which can run on servers powered both by Alpha and Itanium processors, part of HPs plan to help AlphaServer customers migrate to the Itanium-based systems. Novell Inc.s SuSE Linux ES9, featuring the 2.6 Linux kernel, will also be available on the Integrity systems, offering as much as 16-way scalability, officials said.

New virtualization capabilities, including a pay-per-use plan for businesses running Windows, also will be rolled out.

Joe Weisbord, chief technology officer of GTrade Services Ltd., a trading arm of The Bank of New York Co. Inc., applauded HPs Itanium efforts. The New York company, which in 1999 standardized on the Wintel architecture on Compaq Computer Corp. systems, runs 10 Integrity servers.

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"Im happy to hear theyre supporting [Itanium]," Weisbord said. "The last thing I need is a machine with low support."

But Bob Combs, a program manager for a large software company and a longtime HP user, disagreed. "Id like to see [HP] adopt more of the [64-bit x86] type of architecture, to focus more on getting the most bang per dollar out of the chips rather than trying to recoup the amount of money [HP and Intel have] dumped into it," he said.

For its part, Sun, of Santa Clara, Calif., by early fall will outfit its entire Sun Fire line of systems with the upcoming UltraSPARC IV+ processor, said David Yen, executive vice president of the companys Scalable Systems Group. The UltraSPARC IV+ is a dual-core chip built on a 90-nanometer process, which enables more circuitry for improvements to such features as network capabilities and security.

At the same time, Sun is pushing forward on its development of "Niagara," a key part of its Throughput Computing strategy. The first generation of the chip, which will offer up to eight cores, each of which will handle multiple threads, is due out early next year, with the next generation following about a year to 18 months later, Yen said.

Sun already has systems in-house running on the chip and has begun working with a handful of customers to run their applications on those systems, he said.

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