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Hewlett Packard wants to do more than impress you with its latest server launch, it wants to spank you with it - hard.

The US vendor unveiled its Superdome 9000 server in New York today - promising 'the world's most powerful, flexible and available UNIX computing platform'.

At a swanky Wall Street hotel, members of the press were herded into the grand ballroom to catch pearls of wisdom from HP CEO Carly Fiorina and a glimpse of the machine.

According to Fiorina, 14 months ago HP was getting pulverised in the dotcom space - or in her words, it had left a "hole large enough for the competition to drive a truck through". She said the situation had now changed at the low end of the market, and added that with the Superdome "we will change the game at the high end."

HP claims the server, which looks like a cross between a very large fridge freezer and a coffee vending machine, runs at twice the speed of HP's current fastest offering - the V-Class server, and it expects to increase speeds three-to-fourfold in the future.

As with some of HP's (and IBM's) existing schemes, Superdome will be sold under a utility-type pricing model (capacity on demand) which lets customers only pay for what they use - like electricity or the phone. HP can ship extra CPUs with the product and customers will pay to turn them on or off.

The machine is IA-64-ready - the multi-operating system architecture currently supports HP-UX 11i (the latest version of HP's UNIX OS), but will also be able to support HP-UX, Windows NT and Linux simultaneously in the future, the company said. Each server holds 32 processors, with a maximum of 256GB memory and around 110 PCI slots.

HP is also pushing the services angle with this announcement - amidst talk of 'reinventing HP's culture', it has apparently been busy training thousands of sales reps, consultants and services for a mysterious new sales and services model.

After slagging off the competition - ie. IBM and Sun - Duane Zitzner, president of computing systems at HP, labelled the Superdome 'spank'. According to Zitzner, 'spank' is the latest cool word in the Big Apple, and he reckons this 'mother of all computers' is 'one bad spank machine'. But then he would. ®

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