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Compaq to push Alpha volumes by ‘leveraging Linux’

Despite reorgs, Big Q loves Alpha more than ever, says Heil

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Compaq Business Critical Server Division general manager Bill Heil has written a letter to customers reaffirming the company's commitment to Alpha "for the long term." This sort of thing is frequently the kiss of death for whatever it is a corporation is reaffirming its commitment to, but in this case the letter helps put some flesh on a strategy that Compaq has looked like it's making up at it goes along. As is clear already, Compaq is splitting its lines between "Industry Standard Servers" (i.e. little Intel ones running NT) and Business Critical Servers, Alpha, that is. Says Heil: "Alpha is absolutely key to our profitable growth and market leadership in the Business Critical Server segment." Loosely translated that suggests Compaq doesn't reckon much on the prospects of Intel and IA-64 being credible in this sector over the next couple of years, and therefore intends to make a strong play on Alpha instead. Heil gets more interesting when he gets on to Linux. Segmenting the product lines between Intel at low-to-middle and Alpha at the top would be simple enough, but it's more complex than that. "We will drive Alpha volumes by leveraging the growth of Linux," he says. That tallies with what Tim Yeaton was telling us about Linux-Tru64 co-existence the other day (Compaq aims Alpha at high end). Compaq can pitch Tru64 Alpha as the mission-critical, high-availability, highly scalable server platform while selling Linux Alpha workstations to run with it. We're not sure "leveraging" is a word entirely appropriate to the spirit of open source, but there you are. Heil goes on to commit to maintaining and extending Alpha's performance leadership, but here he's on trickier territory. Compaq's currently shipping 1-14 CPU AlphaServers based on EV6, but he only commits to a near-term upgrade to EV67 equivalents, and promises 32 CPU versions for early 2000. That means that the WildFire kit to be unveiled in a couple of weeks time (32-way WildFire set to roll) ain't quite with us yet after all. But there's the 1GHz-plus EV68 from Samsung, which he alludes to, without going as far as roadmapping it in, and "we have an exciting Alpha road map ahead of us, including EV7 and EV8 and beyond." We expect Q to come up with some advance dope on the EV8 Arana at Microprocessor Forum next week - stay tuned. ®

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