HP adds Beef to Midrange Unix Server Line

Hewlett-Packard Co. Tuesday introduced a 16-way Unix server that brings some of the features found in its high-end Superdome system into the "meat and potatoes" segment of its product line.

The new 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.

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 utilize Intel Corp.s 64-bit Itanium processor.

"There is no machine in the industry thats got the price/performance capabilities that this machine has in the Unix space … not IBM, not Sun, not anybody," said Duane Zitner, president of HPs Computing Systems division, at a news conference Tuesday in Palo Alto, Calif.

HPs newest server also offers features previously only found in its 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 industry analyst for Illuminata Inc., in Nashua, N.H.

HP jostled by IBM

HPs upgrading of its midrange Unix server line comes after the company has lost ground in recent years to Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM, Eunice said.

"HP was incredibly strong through the 90s in the Unix market, but in the last couple of years theyve been pushed aside a bit by Sun and IBM," Eunice said. "They have a very strong product line following their recent refreshment, but I think they are still being jostled by IBM."

Last week, IBM introduced a new midrange server, the eight-way p660, and next week will introduce a new high-end server, the 32-way Regatta. Meanwhile, Sun on Oct. 2 is expected to unveil its high-end Starcat, the successor to its popular E10000 server.

One way HP is looking to distinguish itself from the competition is by offering a pay-per-use program that enables customers to spend less upfront for a fully configured system.

The utilitylike payment system is particularly appealing for companies that deal with seasonal swings in workloads, said one IT manager whose company is considering buying the rp8400.

"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 in turn results in varying demands on its data center.

"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 server supports two hard partitions and 16 virtual partitions, has the capacity for 64GB of memory, and is available in pedestal or rack versions. The rp8400 also comes in a relatively compact size, with its 17U rack version taking up less than half the size of two eight-way HP N-class servers.