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There are times when a vacant moan makes its way through the streets of Palo Alto, haunting innocent children and sending tremors up the spines of adults. This is the cry of HP's tireless server engineers after they have managed to wring another benchmark record out of Superdome.

It's not enough for HP to post a second or third place TPC-C score with its high-end Superdome server. A message has come from the top that IBM's Power-based p690 is to be beaten at all costs. HP must prove to the world that the Itanium chip is the best processor around and not some hideous mistake.

And so once again, HP has released a new TPC-C score with a 64 processor Integrity Superdome system, giving it the top transaction processing hardware on the planet. HP turned to its own HP-UX operating system, instead of Windows, and Oracle's database to set the mark of 824,164 transactions per minute.

Carly Fiorina cast out her whip, and the engineers whimpered, but, in the end, they got the job done. IBM should hope it can inspire the same kind of effort from its pSeries Unix team. We have little doubt a cry will go out in Armonk tonight.

HP now holds three of the top five TPC scores with IBM picking up the other two. There is quite a mix of operating systems and databases used to achieve these marks. HP-UX, AIX, Windows, Oracle, DB2 and SQL Server are all there. The best combination in price/performance terms is the third place system from HP, running on Itanic, Microsoft Windows and SQL Server.

HP and IBM have been rotating in and out of the top spot over the past few months. Frankly, their battle has become a tad tired. Itanium and Power both seem to be doing fine. The vendors, however, insist on spending millions to have this transaction contest and flex their computing muscle, while engineers go insane.

When Fiorina does let a few of the HP server experts out of the benchmark sweatshop, it seems they are able to get some real work done.

HP also announced that it has started shipping a new 32 processor AlphaServer system - the GS1280. The server runs on EV7 Alpha chips.

Alpha fans should savor this box, as their time with the venerable processor runs short. HP will pull the rug out from under Alpha in 2004 - end chip development - and begin asking all customers to board the Itanic. Alpha systems will ship with the upcoming EV79 through 2006.

The forced transition to Itanium elicits another cry from the HP faithful. This time, it's the customer base issuing a moan that carries the world over. ®

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