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HP racks up 9000 L-Class

Dimpled chads found in pricing schemata

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Hewlett-Packard has updated its mid-range L-Class 9000 servers, the first revamp since the range was launched 14 months ago. These rack-mounts take up where Wintel boxes leave off, with starting prices around $15k-20k, and they've been as important to HP - accounting for as much as a fifth of its revenue growth - as they have been to Risc mavens.

So what's new? The new kit takes 550MHz PA-8600 processors, up from the 350MHz 8500s, and HP claims 171,000tpm from a rack of five four-ways.

The HP blurb suggests it's targeted at the rapidly-collapsing bubble economy, and cites figures for multimedia performance and its suitability for web infrastructure hosts. But it's probably the meat and drink HP customers who've run SAP and PeopleSoft on R-Class boxes who will decide the success of this upgrade.

With these in mind, HP introduces - as promised at the SuperDome launch in September - soft partitioning (although this will only come on stream next year.)

HP's pricing plot also gets thicker by the minute. Mark Hudson, HP's director of marketing for its high-end systems, tells us there four options, although our notes actually made that five.

There's the usual, pay for what you get. Then come three variations of capacity on demand - where the box is fitted with more CPUs than you pay for, and are activated when you need them. As far as we can tell, the differences boil down to when exactly you're billed for using this capacity. And finally, and really a variant of the latter, only with an off-button, is "utility pricing": by which HP loans you use of the CPUs you already have. Complicated, isn't it?

Unlike IBM, HP reckons it sells a boat load of L-Class kit as clustered configurations (using Fibre Channel as the interconnect), although the de-emphasis on clustering with handily ducks comparisons with Compaq's own Galaxy configurations.

HP reckons the revamped L-Class still leaves breathing room between the low-end A-Class and the midrange stalwart N-Class. Although it claims to support and sell a few of the R and D-Class machines the L-Class is supposed to supplant. And good for them, although at times like this, we wish we had some handy mnemonics. Suggestions welcome, to the usual address. ®

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