Compaq unveils new products on AlphaServer line

Compaq Computer Corp. on Tuesday unveiled new products in its AlphaServer range including the AlphaServer ES45, a mid-range Unix server that uses a 1 GHz, 64-bit chip, and its AlphaServer SC45 supercomputer.

Aimed at the commercial market, the AlphaServer ES45 has already begun shipping with a starting price tag of US$58,000 and is available with the Tru64 Unix with TruCluster Servers, OpenVMS or Linux operating systems, Compaq said in a statement. The mid-range AlphaServer ES45 system includes up to four of Compaq’s high speed Alpha processors, the company said.

In July, Compaq began shipping its first high-end AlphaServer GS Series servers based on its 1 GHz, 64-bit processor: the eight-processor GS80 (starting at US$95,000), the 16-way GS160 (starting at US$255,000) and the GS320 (priced under US$565,000), which can support up to 32 processors.

“The question of speed is one that comes up all of the time, and for good reason. But from the point of view from the technical computing market, no, you can never generate enough speed. Those using computers for life sciences, genetic research for instance, need all the power that they can get and their demands are increasing,” said Tom Yeates, director of Compaq’s high performance server business unit.

“We already shipped between 2,500 and 3,000 of these systems,” Yeates said.

The servers are intended to compete against similar offerings such as IBM Corp.’s p-Series servers, the Sun Blade 1000 line from Sun Microsystems Inc. and the HP 9000 model L3000 from the company that Compaq is currently attempting to merge with, Hewlett-Packard Co.

“IBM has gotten very competitive over the last year, there is no doubt about that. … As for HP, the less said about that (before the merger is finalized), the better. What I can say is that our strategy is to move to a single Itanium-based product over time,” Yeates said.

Last April, Compaq made public its decision to move its entire 64-bit series of AlphaServers to Intel Corp.’s Itanium processor by 2004, with an eye towards giving Alpha users an industry-standard architecture for future applications.

But Yeates was quick to point out that the fact that Alpha will be phased out in the future should not scare off potential customers. “We expect to keep selling new versions of Alpha servers for the next four to five years and we are expecting customers to use Alpha servers for the next 10 years,” Yeates said.

In announcing its decision to migrate to Itanium, Compaq was simply trying to give customers of such expensive hardware fair warning. “We are simply trying to provide a clear, open set of directions for our customers,” Yeates said.

Along with the high speed, mid-range AlphaServer, Compaq also launched its AlphaServer SC45 supercomputer, which is available with the Tru64 Unix operating system.

The supercomputer has a base system of 16 Alpha processors and 16GB of memory, and is ready to ship with a starting price of US$899,000, Compaq said.

In April, Compaq announced that it been contracted to build the supercomputer, with more than 450 AlphaServer SC processors, for the Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing (APAC), based in Canberra at the Australian National University (ANU).

Compaq is also building supercomputers for the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and the French Atomic Energy Commission, the company said on Tuesday. Compaq claims that the AlphaServer SC45 supercomputer it built for APAC is the largest university supercomputer in Australia, while the French Atomic Energy Commission’s supercomputer is now the largest in Europe.

Additionally, Compaq announced that beginning in November, its Tru64 Unix-based AlphaServer ES45 will have optional pre-installed certified configurations for Oracle Corp.’s 9i software.

“Oracle’s 9i is a fairly hefty configuration and it also uses the rack system, where when you run out of space on one server, you just add another server on the rack. The product will be $2,500 as a starting point, but we are the first to market with rack,” Yeates said.

Compaq, in Houston, is at