PA-Risc wins stay of execution as HP begins migration to Itanium

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PA-Risc wins stay of execution as HP begins migration to Itanium

Cliff Saran
With the launch of the PA8800, a new PA-Risc processor, Hewlett-Packard has extended the life of its HP9000 server by at least five years, giving users vital breathing space as Intel's Itanium architecture matures.

HP has begun to migrate users from non-Intel hardware onto Itanium-based 64-bit systems, outlining a roadmap for migrating OpenVMS and Nonstop users.

The Nonstop system is used heavily in the banking sector to run cash machine networks, because of its high level of reliability.

Thomas Ulrick, Unix server category manager at HP, said, "We have made a commitment to stop selling Mips-based Nonstop hardware after 2006, but support will continue until 2011."

By the end of 2004, Ulrick said HP would begin offering an early version of Nonstop for Itanium. "We will have a system functionally equivalent to the existing Mips system by early 2005," he said.

An emulator would be available to allow users to run existing applications, but Ulrick urged users to consider moving their applications onto the Itanium platform by recompiling the source code to gain the performance improvements of the Intel architecture.

For OpenVMS, the Itanium release, version 8.2, is expected in the second half of 2004. Ulrick said there would be no binary compatibility, so users running OpenVMS on existing Alpha-based hardware would need to migrate onto Itanium.

On the HP9000, HP has introduced a new PA-Risc system based on the PA8800 processor, which Ulrick said would be compatible with Itanium hardware. "Users will be able to replace the PA-Risc processor with an Itanium board," he said.

A binary translator is being made available to HP-UX users to allow them to run applications built for PA-Risc-based HP9000s on future Itanium-based systems. "All well-behaved HP-UX applications should run correctly," said Ulrick.

John Owen, co-chairman of the HP User Group, said OpenVMS had a more positive future now it was part of HP. "OpenVMS has a very committed user base which has been pushing for longevity of the OpenVMS platform."

Owen said he saw the introduction of the PA8800 as a commitment from HP to support its PA-Risc customers. Even though it offers binary compatibility, he said, "[HP-UX users] are still cautious about using Itanium. They now have a guarantee of at least five years that PA-Risc will be supported." This should give users time to start introducing Itanium-based HP-UX systems into their datacentres.

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