Compaq drops 32-way DataCenter

Compaq Computer Corp. said late last month that it will scrap the 32-way servers it was selling preloaded with the DataCenter version of Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 2000.

DataCenter is the high-end Windows 2000 server launched late last year that requires hardware manufacturers to test and certify the operating system running on their product. The 32-way configuration is the maximum number of supported processors for DataCenter, Microsoft’s answer to Unix servers for mission-critical enterprise applications.

Windows 2000 DataCenter is targeted for large-scale on-line transaction processing, databases, data warehousing and enterprise resource management software.

But the servers have not been selling well and Compaq, which helped Microsoft develop the DataCenter program, follows HP as companies that have ceased shipping 32-way DataCenter servers.

“The 32-way servers are way ahead of where the market wants to be,” said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Giga Information Group. “Customers want to buy these types of servers from the manufacturers, not an OEM.”

Compaq licenses its server, sold under the name ProLiant ML770, from Unisys, as do other 32-way vendors, including Dell.

Compaq said it will focus sales efforts on DataCenter running on its 8-way ProLiant 8500 hardware, which accounts for nearly 95 per cent of its DataCenter sales. It will continue to work with Unisys to provide support to existing ML770 customers after the product stops shipping on May 31.

Compaq said it will develop its own 32-way server based on Intel’s forthcoming McKinley IA-64 chip. Co-developed with Hewlett-Packard, McKinley is a 1 GHz-plus processor that can run numerous operating systems.

“This was a decision based on economics,” Compaq spokesperson Timothy Golden said. “We can meet the needs of 95 per cent of our customers with the 8-way platform.” Golden said the 32-way platform needs technical improvements in such areas as memory and I/O before Compaq will re-enter the field. He also said the platform lacks applications. For example, Exchange 2000, touted as a “killer app” for DataCenter, does not run on a 32-way configuration without partitioning the server into smaller groups of processors.

And that, Golden said, presents a cost issue to customers. “Four eight-way servers cost less than one 32-way server but offer the same number of processors and memory,” he said.

The Compaq eight-way sells for between US$25,000 and US$90,000, while the 32-way is between US$400,00 and US$800,000. Many vendors still offer a 32-way DataCenter server, including Unisys, Dell, Fijitsu, IBM, NEC, Stratus and ICL.

“We are sorry to hear that Compaq and Unisys won’t be working together on the 32-way platform,” said Bob O’Brien, group product manager for the server group at Microsoft. “Compaq made primarily what was a business decision.” O’Brien said Microsoft is happy with the sales numbers on DataCenter Server in the seven months since its release.

Microsoft, however, will not comment publicly on the number of licenses sold, but analysts believe it is not enough to even represent a percentage of overall server sales.

O’Brien said the majority of DataCenter deployments are focused on server consolidation.