Testing times ahead in 64-bit server migration

Mid-range server users will have to endure extensive systems testing to ensure a smooth transition to Intel's forthcoming Madison...

Mid-range server users will have to endure extensive systems testing to ensure a smooth transition to Intel's forthcoming Madison processor.

The launch of Madison, the next product in Intel's 64-bit Itanium processor family, will be the natural successor for many proprietary 64-bit systems, including Hewlett-Packard's PA-Risc server processor.

Until now, PA-Risc has been the powerhouse for the high-end HP-UX server range. But new benchmarks show Madision can outperform the fastest Risc servers and HP is gearing up to offer Madison power in its flagship Superdome range later this year.

Tony Lock, chief analyst at Bloor Research, said, "Any migration is a challenge - you have to do a lot of testing first and make sure that you test every potential use of the software and everything that could go wrong. If you don't do this then you could end up in some very deep, dark, holes."

Lock said HP has done a good job of notifying its users of the changes ahead. "I think this is one of the best approaches that I have seen. They are talking to their customers directly and trying to let everybody know that they won't be abandoned."

However, Bloor was unable to put a figure on the cost implications of migrating to Itanium. "There is no such thing as an average company, every one is different," he said. "A lot comes down to the complexity of the infrastructure they have and the importance of the application they are hosting. If users have got mission-critical applications they will have to test them very carefully."

The implications of Madison will be high on the agenda for HP users at their European conference in Amsterdam later this month. John Owen, chairman of the HP\Works technical users group said users are keen to ensure a straightforward migration path from existing PA-Risc systems. "Speaking as someone from a HP-UX background, I am looking for a smooth transition from the existing PA-Risc chip to the next-generation Itanium chip."

Aside from his migration concerns, Owen, who is the IT development manager at Birmingham University, was upbeat about the new chip's potential. "There have been positive messages from HP so far, so we are looking forward to seeing our operating systems and applications running on next-generation Itanium with a significant performance increase," he said.

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