Compaq Enhances Its Unix-based Product Line

Compaq Computer Corp. of Houston, Tex., started shipping an enhanced version of its AlphaServer GS Series systems in July.

The updated AlphaServer GS contains a 1GHz, 64-bit processor – an industry first, according to Compaq. The 1GHz processor is now available for all GS systems, including the eight-processor GS80, the 16-way GS160 and the 32-processor GS320.

According to Mark Silverberg, technical marketing manager at Compaq, the AlphaServer line was the first system to offer 64-bit processors, back in 1993. In fact, according to Alan Freedman, research manager for servers, workstations and storage at Toronto-based International Data Corp. (IDC) Canada, Compaq is the first company to release a 1GHz, 64-bit processor system in the Unix space.

“Those types of customers [that want 1GHz systems] have really demanding applications where the utmost in performance is required,” Compaq’s Silverberg said. “The performance characterization can come from a number of different dimensions – if it’s from a very large database and the customer wants the fastest possible queries to get at data in that database.” The GS series is Compaq’s high-end system and is ideal for scientific and technical applications, he said.

Compaq is currently fourth in the Canadian Unix market, according to IDC’s Freedman. He added, “They have been making pretty good strides in terms of gaining market share and gaining revenues on the enterprise side. One of Compaq’s main goals is to not be considered a PC vendor, but to be considered an enterprise-wide vendor so they can go right to the high end of the servers right down to desktops and laptops.”

Freedman noted there is one potential problem with the AlphaServer Series. Compaq has just recently signed a deal with Intel Corp. to start using the Itanium processors for its systems in about two or three years, so there may be some hesitation on the part of future customers to buy into Compaq’s AlphaServer products, Freedman said.

According to Silverberg, the Itanium-based platform will be released in 2004. Some applications will have to be reconfigured to work with the new processor, but the move to Intel technology will assure AlphaServer’s and Tru64’s longevity, he added. Enhancements to Compaq’s Tru64 Unix were announced at the same time as the release of the AlphaServer GS update.

Enhancements to Tru64 include the addition of a more flexible and powerful workload management tool, on-line add and replacement (OLAR) support of CPUs in the AlphaServer GS Series and extended Internet capabilities such as Internet Express V5.6 and open source and commercial software for basic infrastructure management.

The ability Tru64 offers to put CPUs of different speeds into a system is something customers have been clamouring for, Silverberg said.

“Customers tend to use [the GS] machines for types of applications and computing problems where the highest-performing CPUs are needed,” Silverberg said. A customer with pre-1GHz processors would not have to make a large investment all at once to upgrade to the new processors. The customer could upgrade slowly without worrying about compatibility problems. “We protect the customer’s investment by ensuring that they don’t have to replace all the processors that they have in their machines today.”

Silverberg added Tru64 also provides customers with lower-cost clustering technology and system and storage management tools.

The 1GHz AlphaServer processor is available now. Pricing for AlphaServer GS Series systems starts at approximately US$150,000. The Tru64 Unix comes pre-installed on Tru64 Unix AlphaServer systems starting in September. Compaq can be found on the Web at