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HP claims it will trash competitors on IA-64

But how compatible is its binary compatibility?

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IBM, Sun's and Compaq's IA-64 strategies are fundamentally flawed, a senior executive at Hewlett Packard said today. Cliff Loeb, European technology strategy manager at HP, claimed that his firm's approach, on the other hand, was consistent and simple. At the same time, he revealed that HP engineers have developed so-called dynamic emulation software, which would ensure a high degree of binary compatibility on the IA-64 platform with the 14,000 applications that currently exist for its PA-RISC machines. Loeb said that while the first IA-64 chip, the Itanium (Merced) was "a warm up" for the platform, HP's strategy was that the Intel technology will inevitably trounce the RISC-based competition on both price and performance. He said that the next generation of the IA-64 family, which Intel codenames McKinley, will achieve very high performance. "The systems will be volume systems," he said. Workstations using the extended floating point facilities of IA-64 would offer a big performance boost, he claimed. He said that HP machines would use HP/UX, Linux and NT64. "We have a full applications list already, all PA systems are binary compatible [with IA-64," he claimed. "We're the only company that will be able to offer that," he said. "IBM is having to ask its developers to help it on Monterey. HP will have the only high end Unix enterprise systems." However, that claim comes with a caveat, or "fine print" as Loeb put it. Only well-behaved applications will be able to use its dynamic translation emulation software, and that means that HP is close to releasing so-called code scanners, which will check software for compatibility. Loeb also admitted that the dynamic translation software, which works on the fly, had an overhead which could vary between 10 and 20 per cent on overall performance, depending on the type of application that was running. HP is pursuing a dual strategy of offering customers both PA-RISC and IA-64 systems, with the roadmap for the former lasting until 2003. It has developed proprietary chipset technology which will allow its customers to use either PA-RISC or IA-64 chips in systems during that transition period. Loeb claimed that Compaq Wildfire technology, which uses the Alpha microprocessor and which will be released in February of next year, is the last chance the company has to succeed in the enterprise market. He said: "I don't Compaq will keep Alpha going for long." Compaq's Tru64 Unix has a minute market share, he said. IBM's offering in the IA-64 will just be for the Netfinity range of servers, he said. He claimed that IBM's attempt to unify three separate operating systems in Monterey -- AIX, SCO and Dynix-- would be almost impossible. "In the history of computing that's never been done before," he said. Sun, meanwhile, while telling its customers that it will have an offering for IA-64 with Solaris, will not be offering its own Merced and McKinley boxes. Quizzed on the nature of the relationship between HP and Intel, Loeb said that the chip giant had to be seen to be offering a "level playing field" between different IA-64 vendors. Neverthless, he claimed, the two companies still had a strong relationship in developing future IA-64 processors. ®

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