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Blow for ‘Windows Mainframe’ as Compaq dumps Unisys

Single figure UK sales

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Compaq has followed Hewlett Packard in dropping Unisys' flagship ES7000 server, the much-vaunted 'Windows mainframe'. Compaq will instead focus on 8-way systems, clustered if need be, in preference to the high-price, high-end 32-way box. The 'e-@action Enterprise Server ES7000' was dropped from HP's line-up last month; the partnership lasted less than six months and didn't yield a single sale.

The server uses a proprietary hard-partitioning scheme it calls CMP, which links four four-ways with a mainframe-style switch. It can run Unix and Windows applications concurrently, but it's very much sold as a Windows machine: that's the only OS Unisys mentions on its ES7000 web page. And Microsoft has made the most of it, frequently citing it as proof that Windows has mainframe reliability and scalability.

However the truth remains that you get what you pay for. Or less. Getting low-end commodity OSes to take advantage of the monster reveals a different story: Microsoft SQLServer maxes out at 12 CPUs, and Linux has only upped its SMP capabilities with the latest kernel.

And with a starting price tag close to $2m, the ES7000 has been going head to head against proven proprietary Unices from IBM (whose Sequent NUMA x86 boxes offers similar partitioning capabilities), Compaq's Wildfire, HP's Superdome and Sun's Starfire lines. On Monday IBM added Linux partitioning to its AS/400 range, too.

How can you justify spending $2m on a Windows machine? With some difficulty it seems: sales have been sluggish and a mole reports that UK sales are 'in single figures,' almost all at Microsoft reference site Abbey National.

To be fair, Microsoft can argue lower $/TPC results than the proprietary Unixes, but this is going to be challenged as Linux matures. While server consolidation is always going to be financially attractive, the case for mixing different OSes in a single system when they could all be running some flavour of Linux is going to be much harder to make. ®

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