HP debuts entry-level Unix server

Looking to give enterprise users more speed and a clear upgrade path to its larger boxes, Hewlett-Packard Co. rolled out a new Unix server last month that tops off its entry-level family.

For IT managers with e-commerce sites or lots of bursty traffic, the new L3000 server, which features up to four processors, could solve the problem of how to meet quick rises in demand. HP is offering pricing that lets users pay for the CPU power they need when they need it. HP plans to offer an upgrade path for users that have older L1000 and L2000 model servers in the next few months. The L1000 is a two-way system; the L2000 is a four-way system.

The L3000 can be purchased with one to four processors, or users can opt for a utility pricing model that lets them use each processor for about US$100 per month. If a user with an e-commerce site gets hit with a holiday rush, for example, additional processors in the machine can be activated through an onboard management console feature. The server is pre-programmed to send an e-mail to HP that triggers usage billing to begin.

The L3000 supports PA-8600 processors running at 550MHz, and offers more I/O and system bus throughput than the L2000. Specifically, the I/O throughput is 3.2GB/sec., compared to 1.3GB/sec. for the L2000. The system bus runs at 4.3GB/sec., up from 1.3GB/sec. on the L2000. HP competes with IBM Corp., Compaq Computer Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. in the Unix server market.

Roy VanDoorn, director of product marketing for HP 9000 servers, said the company will continue to offer its L1000 and L2000 servers to meet user demand for lower-cost and performance servers, while also offering an upgrade path to the L3000. HP said the L2000 upgrade will be available in a few months and will require a motherboard replacement. That board replacement will give users a PA-8600 processor running at 540MHz.

Howard Wong, director of technical operations at Meridex in Richmond, B.C., an application service provider and current L2000 user, said his company isn’t likely to buy any L3000s soon because it is just reaching a point at which the performance of the L2000 is necessary, but added that he likes the upgrade options. He said one of the main benefits he sees in HP’s L-class servers is the ability to meet demand quickly.

Jean Bozman, an analyst with market research firm International Data Corp., said HP’s L3000 is an important addition to its line of Unix servers that fit into the e-commerce arena. Servers aimed at that market need to be able to meet space and performance requirements, two areas HP has tried to address with the L-class servers, including the L3000. She said HP’s low-end Unix servers helped the company maintain its place as one of the top three Unix server vendors in the past year. The 1999 worldwide Unix server market accounted for US$25.7 billion in revenue. In that market, Sun garnered 28.2 per cent of the revenue; HP 22.6 per cent, and IBM 17.7 per cent.

HP also plans to offer customers with L2000 and L3000 server models a virtual partitioning feature in the first half of 2001 that lets them run multiple copies of their operating systems on the server. By using multiple copies of the operating system assigned to specific processors, network professionals can better ensure that applications and end users get the performance they need.

Users can already perform resource partitioning, which lets IT managers assign specific CPU resources for applications.

The L3000 can support a variety of network and I/O connection types, including Ultra2 SCSI LVD (single and dual port); FWD SCSI (single and dual port); fibre channel; gigabit Ethernet; 100Base-TX (single and quad port); 100Base-FX; ATM 155Mbps; ATM 622Mbps; FDDI Dual Attach LAN; and token-ring 100Mbps. The L3000 features up to 16MB of memory and 10 I/O slots.

The L3000 is available now and starts at US$39,000. A fully configured L3000 would cost about US$150,000. The L1000 and L2000 start at US$14,000 and US$22,000 respectively. See HP on the Web for more information at www.hp.com.