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HP has given its hardware line a good scrubbing on Monday, refreshing a broad list of server and storage systems.

The new kit includes Unix systems running on the long-awaited PA-8800 processor, fresh Itanium-based servers and revamped tape libraries. HP has also tweaked its storage pricing models to allow for new pay-per-use policies and has broadened its relationship with Linux maker SuSE.

The outpouring of news comes on the same that storage rival EMC made a major hardware launch. It's also one day ahead of a large server rollout from Sun Microsystems.

The timing against Sun is of particular interest given the nature of HP's Unix news. The PA-8800 is HP's first dual core RISC processor. IBM has been selling the dual core Power4 chip for quite awhile, and Sun is expected to launch its dual core UltraSparc IV chip tomorrow.

In days past, HP would give the new RISC boxes top-billing. With dual core chips, HP's broad line of Unix systems should see major performance gains, and customers can insert the new chips into existing hardware. Starting today, customers can purchase new 2-way to 32-way PA-RISC-based servers. The 128-processor Superdome box should be available next month.

But ultimately this kit is a sore spot for HP rather than something to brag about. HP spent far more marketing muscle on the Itanium systems being launched today. Customers are expected to follow the bright lights and move to Itanium as PA-RISC and Alpha servers are phased out.

"Standardization is key to building an adaptive enterprise, in which business processes and IT are linked dynamically," said Mark Hudson, vice president marketing for Enterprise Storage and Servers at HP.

Apparently this message does not apply to customers who standardized on PA-RISC many years ago.

So what does HP have available in its Itanium line for those brave few standardizers?

First up is a the new low-end Integrity rx1600 box. The system runs on up to two Low Voltage Itanium 2 processors and comes in a 1U package. It starts under $3,000.

HP also has new versions of its Integrity rx2600 servers based on the Low Voltage chips with starting prices at $5,700. These two processor servers can run standalone or as part of the XC6000 Linux cluster package, which includes up to 512 servers linked together.

"Growing numbers of customers are choosing Integrity servers for their data centers," HP said.

Integrity? We've heard of it.

But lurking behind the Itanium celebration is the nasty rumor that HP will join Sun and IBM as an Opteron backer. This doesn't mean HP will give up on the Itanic, but the acceptance of AMD's 64-bit processor certainly shows some concern in Palo Alto about exactly what a Xeon replacement is supposed to look like.

Away from the hardware controversy, HP made some relatively mundane software moves. HP has now included SuSE Enterprise Server 8 on its corporate price list for one- to four-processor Integrity servers. In addition, HP has sent out a beta of Version 8.1 of the OpenVMS operating system for Itanic boxes.

On the storage front, HP launched StorageWorks ESL E-series tape libraries in both LTO Ultrium 460 and SDLT 320 drive formats. The products here - ESL712e and ESL630e - are tape libraries for storage area network (SAN) setups.

HP has also rolled out a pay-per-use financing program for its StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array family, including the EVA3000 and EVA5000. This lets HP track a customers storage usage and bill the client on a metered model. ®

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