As part of its effort to break into the mid-range server market, Compaq is positioning its new ProLiant 5000 Pentium Pro server as a system that delivers "mid-range performance at about half the cost" of competing systems.
Figures recently published by the Transaction Processing Council (TPC-C), an independent computer-performance auditing group, indicate Compaq's claim is legitimate. When compared with competing systems from Unix vendors, the ProLiant appears to provide similar - if not superior - functionality for less money.
For example, TPC-C figures indicate a fully configured ProLiant 5000 produces nearly identical performance to NCR's WorldMark 5100S server for about 40 per cent of the cost. When compared to Digital's AlphaServer 4100, the ProLiant delivered equal performance for about 60 per cent of the cost. Comparisons with Hewlett Packard's HP9000 T500 server and IBM's RS/6000 J30 server, although withdrawn from the TPC-C study, provided similar data - with Compaq clearly in the lead.
The system accepts up to four 166MHz or 200MHz Pentium Pro processors, according to Compaq, and offers 57 per cent higher performance than its predecessor, the ProLiant 4500, which will be discontinued over time.
Bad news for competitors?
So how does Compaq server marketing manager Tony Bill think this is sitting with the competitors? "I'd would like to think it's got them worried," he laughed. "We're obviously pleased with the TPC's findings, and we're excited about what's going to happen in the market. In the past, we've been quite well known in the PC server/workgroup server end of the market, but this places us firmly in the middle-range server market."
According to Bill, among the ProLiant 5000's key selling points are its inbuilt redundancy attributes. He says the ProLiant can weather diskdrive failure without crashing, has error checking and correcting for memory and includes redundant power modules, which keep the system up and running in the event of component failure.
"If you can't keep the system operational, performance doesn't matter. What we're saying is this server is not only going to deliver the performance, it's going to stay operational. If there is a specific point of failure, the system doesn't crash, it stays up and running," Bill told ARN. Available later this month, the ProLiant 5000 will sell for $24,459 including tax.
Although it hasn't even hit the streets yet, the ProLiant 5000 has come under criticism from some industry watchers who say the product comes up short when compared to Sun and HP servers that have higher capacity for processors. The Sun server in question has capacity for 64 processors and the HP for 32. However, Bill isn't budging. "Compaq allows you to link processors, so you can go 4-8-12-16 and so on," he said. "This is more cost effective for customers. You're not paying for capacity you don't need."
On the horizon
Compaq managing director Ian Penman used the launch of the ProLiant 5000 as an opportunity to shed light on the company's plans for the future. "One of the things we're going to be concentrating on is our ability to build to order," he said. "We want to provide a faster response and to be more flexible when customers want products built to a specific configuration."
Compaq also wants to run a lean ship when it comes to inventory. "We've got $2 billion of stock in inventory," Penman said. "The analysts think that's fine, but we don't. It's too high. High levels of inventory make obsolescence a problem and we don't want to be in that position."
Penman says Compaq wants to stay focused on its core desktop, portable and server business, while gaining ground in the workstation, Internet/intranet and data communications markets. Recent figures released by research firm Dataquest indicate Compaq has been number one in the global PC market for nine consecutive quarters. Last quarter Compaq enjoyed a growth rate of 27.2 per cent and was trailed by IBM, Apple (with losses of 10.5 per cent), Packard Bell and NEC.