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HP boosts HP-UX 11vi3, sets sights on Sun servers

HP rolls out a new version of its Unix operating system, HP-UX vi3, and introduces two new Itanium-based Integrity servers that compete with Sun UltraSPARC systems.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) held a press event this week to unveil a new version of its Unix variant HP-UX 11vi3 and to roll out two new Integrity servers.

HP used the opportunity to show its commitment to the $18 billion Unix market and to point out its roadmap for HP-UX and Itanium-based Integrity servers.

HP-UX 11vi3 features

Nick van der Zweep, director of Business Critical Systems at HP said new versions of HP-UX come around every two or three years, and this update is jam packed with new capabilities.

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According to van der Zweep, existing applications will run 30% faster just by doing an operating system upgrade. Users won't have to recompile applications. "Just putting existing applications on version 3 will offer a huge uptick on performance."

The performance boost is due to improved I/O operations and a 300% increase in multithreading capabilities in the kernel, van der Zweep said.

HP-UX 11iv3 will also come with a massive boost for addressable storage, allowing up to 100 zettabytes (ZB) of addressable storage to be connected to a single system. That would be equivalent to having 355 million of HP's largest storage arrays (XP12000) addressable on a single server.

Tony Iams, an analyst with Ideas International said no one really needs to be able to deal with that amount of storage today, but it is a good investment on HP's part. "It's headroom for HP-UX to adapt to a growing storage demand that could well appear in the future."

Gordon Haff of Illuminata Inc. agreed: "HP felt the time was right to do a significant redesign for future growth and other capabilities."

In addition to storage and performance boosts, HP-UX now has the capability to move memory on the fly between virtual partitions to help balance server workloads. Previous versions had been able to shift CPU resources only.

"The ability to move memory from one partition to another is useful if you have virtualized servers that have changing workload conditions," Iams explained. "In the past you could add CPU, but a lot of applications are memory bound. This will allow you to add memory temporarily."

Lastly, HP-UX now has the ability to provide a mirror of the system image to allow users to update software without having to reboot, which van der Zweep said will cut down planned downtime.

New Integrity servers target Sun

In addition to the operating system upgrade, HP rolled out two new pieces of hardware, a blade and a rack server based on Intel Corp.'s latest Itanium chips.

The HP Integrity BL860c server blade can share the same BladeSystem c7000 enclosure with other HP ProLiant and HP StorageWorks blades. HP said the BL860c is designed for database-intensive applicationss and scientific computing. The server is powered by a new generation of Dual-Core Intel Itanium 2 processors, up to four processor cores supported by up to 48 GB memory in a single, full-height HP BladeSystem c-Class form factor. A base configuration of the new blade starts at $3,827 and is expected to begin shipping in March.

The HP Integrity rx2660 entry-class rack server lists at $4,931 and is shipping now with dual-core Itanium 2 processors. The Integrity rx2660 Server offers a choice of I/O technologies (PCI-X or PCI Express), up to eight SAS drives of internal storage capacity (offering more than 1.1 TB), and in-box processor upgrades.

HP executives pointed squarely at Sun Microsystems Inc.'s UltraSPARC T1-based T2000 -- claiming better Java performance, as well as better price and power per watt, according to Markus Berber, HP's Integrity Blades Strategist.

HP also addressed Sun's inability to deliver on the demand it created with its latest servers. "We have a volume engine in our ProLiant business that allows us to meet our customers' needs and we leverage it in our Integrity business, as well. Every once in a while there may be material constraints, and that happens to everyone, but our availability to deliver is very strong," said Mark Hudson, vice president of marketing for HP's enterprise storage and servers.

The focus on Sun raised the question of how much Sun's latest server foray has eaten into HP's market share. But HP denied that assertion and said it thought the opposite was the case.

Iams doesn't track market share statistics, but said Sun is getting healthier -- that much is clear. "Whatever they're doing seems to be working," he said. "Both are, of course, struggling to compete with IBM. It's easier to go after the other guy than IBM."

IBM will be coming out with an update to AIX later this year, and it has some very impressive hardware planned with Power6, Iams said. "The real battle is looming when IBM brings out the next turn of its products."

Let us know what you think about the article; e-mail: Matt Stansberry, Site Editor.

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