HP Moving Forward on Plans for Itanium Server Switch

Amid skepticism from some industry observers who have been wary of Intel’s Itanium processors, HP has continued along the road to a server switch to Itanium, touting its higher-end Integrity NonStop server as the latest to leave behind reduced instruction set computing (RISC) processing technology for the new technology.

HP unveiled its new server and unified infrastructure management software at the ENSA@WORK HP Enterprise Forum in Denmark this week, talking up the new technology’s business continuity and reliability for big industry customers.

Analysts, some of whom described HP’s Itanium strategy as a big gamble, indicated HP’s server customers stand to gain significantly more power from the migration, as well as more choice on platform, operating system and the ability to manage new and old IT investments within the same system, largely because of improved partitioning and virtualization capabilities.

Change is Good

HP supported three different RISC-based servers after its merger with Compaq in 2002. Now the company says its Itanium server strategy is aimed at allowing enterprise IT customers to successfully transition to new technology, take advantage of it, and still support legacy systems that will likely remain in datacenters as companies upgrade.

“HP is winning business with our Adaptive Enterprise strategy because we help customers exploit change for competitive advantage,” said a statement from HP senior vice president and Adaptive Change general manager Nora Denzel. “Today’s announcements address the challenges companies face dealing with change. Enterprises need to ensure continuity for critical business processes to control the IT infrastructure and consolidate IT resources to cut cost and complexity.”

HP said its newest Integrity NonStop server was the first commercial server to scale up to more than 4,000 Itanium 2 processors and delivers 100 times the reliability of previous systems at half the cost of a mainframe. The company indicated the continuous uptime of the server would serve particularly well in healthcare, financial services, government, transportation, communications, retail and manufacturing.

End of RISC

IDC research vice president Jean Bozman downplayed the riskiness of HP’s movement away from RISC servers, telling TechNewsWorld the company stands to gain additional ramp up of its Integrity line by “end-of-lifing” its RISC technology, which the company helped to innovate over the last two decades.

“They’ve taken all of their mission-critical operating systems running RISC and brought them forward to Itanium,” she said. “It is the successor platform to these RISC platforms.”

Bozman said the move is similar to previous platform transitions from other vendors, including HP rival IBM.

“You can look through history and see where vendors have made the move from platform to platform to advance,” she said. “The question is, how quickly will customers convert.”

More for Less

Bozman indicated that the new HP Itanium-based servers will compete primarily against IBM’s Power 5-based systems and SPARC-based systems from Sun and Fujitsu. She said customers can expect greater performance at a slightly lower price when they move to HP’s more advanced technology.

Those customers — who will also have more freedom in their choice of operating systems, including Linux — are likely to take advantage of HP’s unified management software as they make the switch away from RISC to Itanium and other, newer processing technologies.

“This is delivering on a road map, putting the technology pieces in place for Itanium and saying, ‘We’ll help you move over,'” Bozman said. “[Customers] may not make the move for a year, but they want to know that architecture is moving forward. Of course, there’s competition in the marketplace. We’ll be watching it and tracking it.”

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