HP, Compaq Back Away from Wintel Server Plans

Is it too early for super-sized Windows servers in the enterprise? The actions of two of the big four Intel-based server manufacturers in recent months say yes.

Compaq Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. both backed out of agreements to resell 32-processor systems based on Unisys Corp.'s cellular multi-processing (CMP) technology.

Unisys and Microsoft Corp. worked together to develop a large server and operating system that would bring Wintel into competition with back-end stalwarts, like Sun Microsystem's Starfire servers.

Unisys delivered the 32-processor, 64-GB RAM-capable CMP systems, which it sells itself under the ES7000 brand. Microsoft produced Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, the company's first operating system to support such lofty hardware specs.

Unisys got a major validation of its technology in February 2000 when Compaq agreed to resell CMP systems under its own ProLiant brand. Another boost came in the fall when HP decided to do the same. Dell, ICL and Hitachi also have agreements to resell CMP systems.

But Tim Golden, Compaq's Director of Enterprise Server Product Marketing, says 95 percent of Compaq's sales of Windows 2000 Datacenter Server systems come on Compaq's own eight-processor ProLiant servers.

"Part of it is just the overall industry readiness for this class of server," Golden said in explaining Compaq's decision to discontinue marketing the CMP systems.

Compaq, HP and IBM are all betting that true industry readiness for Windows-based servers in the data center will come when Intel delivers its second generation of 64-bit processors, code-named McKinley. All three server vendors recently expanded on plans to roll out 32- or 64-processor servers running Microsoft's Datacenter Server in the McKinley timeframe.

Unisys officials apparently disagree about market readiness for high-end Windows systems. "We're obviously disappointed that they’ve made this decision," says Peter Samson, Vice President and General Manager of Unisys Technology Sales Development. "We're disappointed that Compaq didn't give it a little longer to measure the market for the products. We believe that our strategy is still right."

The high-profile departures are damaging to Unisys from a PR perspective, according to Steve Josselyn, Research Director for Enterprise Server Fundamentals at IDC. "It's [never] good to have people walking away from your platform."

But, Josselyn points out that internal pressures as much as market conditions may have motivated the companies to back out of the Unisys arrangements.

For companies like HP and Compaq that sell both commodity Windows servers and higher-end UNIX systems, Datacenter muddies the marketing message, Josselyn notes.

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About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.


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