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HP's Orca plan calls for 8-way servers in 2003

Hewlett-Packard will wait until 2003 to bring out servers that use eight or more Itanium processors, part of a plan code-named Orca to shift from its own PA-RISC chips to Intel's 64-bit processors.

HP has already launched systems based on the second version of Itanium, including a workstation, and servers that use up to two or four processors. The company plans to wait for the third version of Intel's 64-bit chip, code-named Madison, before delivering eight-way, 16-way, 32-way and 64-way systems, Vish Mulchand, worldwide product line manager for the HP 9000 high-end servers, said. These servers will eventually replace systems based on HP's own PA-RISC chip.

HP is using the name Orca as a broad term to cover its transition from its PA-RISC chips to Itanium. Next year it plans to release a new PA-RISC chip called Mako, which will be offered alongside its Madison-based servers. It will follow Mako with one more PA-RISC chip before transitioning all of its servers to Itanium, Mulchand said.

"This is not a surprise," said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst with the consulting company Insight 64, in California, USA. "HP has said that larger systems will arrive by mid-year and the second half of 2003. In this timeframe, we ought to have Madisons out there."

HP has placed a large bet on Itanium - a chip it co-developed with Intel - and plans to make it the centerpiece of its midrange and high-end server line. HP's RISC chips compete with offerings from Sun Microsystems and IBM.

Itanium chips use a new EPIC (Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing) instruction set, which requires developers to rewrite their software code to take advantage of it. This requires significant work on the part of software vendors, and is one of the reasons why HP will wait to roll out its larger Itanium-based systems, Mulchand said.

So far, Itanium has been popular for running custom-scientific applications and Linux software, which are well suited for smaller servers or server clusters. As companies like Oracle and BEA Systems roll out business applications for Itanium, HP will bring out Itanium-based servers similar in size and power to its higher-end PA-RISC systems.

The HP servers that use Madison will take advantage of a chipset code-named Pinnacle, Mulchand said. HP uses its zx1 chipset in its current Itanium systems.

At its HP World conference in Los Angles this week, HP had been scheduled to demonstrate a Madison-based system running Microsoft's Windows .net Server 2003 operating system, but decided at the last minute not to show the system, according to an HP employee at the show. The high cost of the system played a part in the decision not to move it from HP's labs, he said.

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