Compaq ushers in AlphaServers

Compaq Computer has made preview models of its future RISC-based EV7 AlphaServers available to potential customers.

Compaq Computer has made preview models of its future RISC-based EV7 AlphaServers available to potential customers.

The new AlphaServers are powered by Compaq's next-generation EV7 processors which are expected to ship in 8-way AlphaServers by the end of this year. AlphaServers designed for 64-way EV7 configurations will follow shortly after that, according to Compaq.

Similar to the modular design of Sun's Enterprise 12000 server which launched on Tuesday (9 April), Compaq's EV7 AlphaServers are built using a modular architecture that lets users add, subtract, and re-deploy computer components such as CPUs and memory. Self-diagnostic and self-correcting technology within the new AlphaServers reduces the user intervention required to stave off potential system downtime. The self-healing technology also better positions Compaq to compete against IBM's eLiza self-healing technology, which ships in all IBM Unix servers.

Preview models of Compaq's EV7 AlphaServers have been provided to test customers such as the Cerner Corporation, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Centre, the French Atomic Commission/Military Applications Department, and Deutsche Boerse Systems.

Compaq AlphaServers are designed for high-end computing environments and compete in a market that has rapidly been consolidated into four major players, Compaq, IBM, Sun, and Hewlett-Packard (HP), according to Ashok Kumar, an industry analyst at US Bancorp Piper Jaffrey.

But only two of those players, IBM and Sun, will continue to offer RISC-based Unix servers after 2005. Before then, Compaq and HP will each move their RISC-based server platforms to Intel chips.

For Compaq, the EV7 chips are next-to-last in a line of RISC-based EV-series processors.

Compaq will battle it out with Sun, IBM, and HP for Unix server market share using EV7-based servers until late 2003. After that, Compaq will switch its OpenVMS and True64 operating systems to Intel's 64-bit Itanium chip line. Compaq will support its legacy RISC customers indefinitely and OS transitions to Itanium should be seamless, but around 2003 the Alpha roadmap will morph to Itanium, as EV-8 chips will be designed by an Intel team, according to Compaq.

HP, which once had a singular hold on the Unix server market before relinquishing it to Sun in the late 1990s, will keep its eye on the Unix prize with two more generations of RISC chips, introducing series 8800 in the 2003 time frame, and series 8900, HP's last RISC chip 12 to 18 months later. Sometime before 2004, HP's transition to Intel's Itanium line will reach critical mass, and the company will unify its operating systems, which already run on Itanium, onto the Intel platform.

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