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HP trumpets HP-UX release and Itanium kit

Say it with us - 'Mission Critical'

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HP today gave its Unix business the big squeeze with a new release of HP-UX and a pair of compact Itanium-based servers.

The company has talked up Version 3 of HP-UX 11i for several months, leaving little surprise for hardcore HP fans. You'll find improved virtualization technology, support for enormous quantities of storage and major application speedups. Overall, the operating system continues to keep pace with AIX and Solaris on some fronts while exceeding the rival OSes in other areas.

Shifting to hardware, HP popped out a new, two-socket Itanium-blade server and its rack and tower complements.

As previously promised, the Integrity BL860c blade system slots into same the BladeSystem c-Class chassis used for Xeon- and Opteron-based blades. Customers can fit up to eight of the blades in each chassis, which translates to 32 blades in a standard 42U rack.

The blade box supports 48GB of memory and ships with 1.6GHz and 1.4GHz versions of Intel's dual-core "Montecito" flavor of Itanic. The box also has room for two, small form factor SAS drives; two dual-port Gbit Ethernet adapters and up to ten fans.

At the moment, the system will only run Version 2 of HP-UX and the latest versions of Red Hat Enterprise LInux and SuSE Linux Enterprise Server. In the second half of the year, HP will add support for Version 3 of HP-UX, Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition and OpenVMS 8.3.

The rack or pedestal rx2660 is a very similar system, although it supports only 32GB of memory. The server has the same processor options and room for eight small form factor SAS drives, a beefier storage controller and more I/O slots.

The blade starts at $3,827, while the rx2660 starts at $4,931.

Strolling back to HP-UX, customers will find new Virtual Server Environment reference architectures. These things never do much for us, but administrators might like them. HP has packages for Oracle and SAP that make it easier to set up virtual machines with their respective software. All told, HP reckons that virtual server rollout time for the business software can be cut in half with the reference architectures.

On a more technical note, Version 3 of HP-UX 11i adds support for up to 100m zettabytes of storage (1 zettabyte = 1 billion terabytes). So, if you have purchased most of the systems made by EMC in the last year, you're in luck.

Customers who upgrade to the new OS can expect to see their applications run "on average" up to 30 per cent faster, according to HP executives.

"We get a huge uptick in performance, for instance, on Java applications," said Nick van der Zweep, a director at HP.

You can find all the new OS features here.

The company seemed intent on driving home the message that the new software and hardware can handle "mission critical" situations, using that phrase seven times in a news statement and several more during a press conference.

HP remains the lone Itanium vendor with a positive story to tell. Its Itanium sales have shot up over the past two years, and the Montectio rollout has treated the vendor well.

But rising Itanium sales have not been enough to offset the declines suffered on the PA-RISC and Alpha fronts. In its most recent quarter, HP's high-end server sales fell 4 per cent. Meanwhile, rivals Sun and IBM posted year-over-year gains from their Unix businesses.

A recent study found that HP's spy scandal has hurt its relationship with large customers. Officials, however, denied such claims.

"We haven't seen that," said Mark Hudson, a VP at HP.

HP also said it has no plans to try and bring Solaris over to Itanium despite a renewed embrace of Solaris on its x86 systems and a new relationship between Sun and Intel around the operating system. ®

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