End of the line for HP's Alpha processor

End of the line for HP's Alpha processor

Hewlett-Packard will release the final processor upgrade for its AlphaServer line of Unix servers this week.

The 1.3GHz EV7z marks the last in a line of RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) processors initially developed by Digital Equipment Corp but ultimately acquired by HP as part of its 2002 acquisition of Compaq.

With five Alpha systems running an Oracle cluster for core enterprise applications, Holmesglen TAFE's IS manager Martin Power believes the platform is an "extremely robust and reliable commercial system".

"If your reputation is on the line, it's pretty easy to bank on the technology," Power said. "We won't migrate off anytime soon as there is no need to. When they reach the end of their support life in about four years we will look at the market and find the best commercial option."

Power said enterprise system migrations are commercially driven and he can't see any reason why a customer would "become nervous and jump ship".

"Itanium is actually an Alpha chip as the technology was licensed to Intel," he said. "HP will merge the best parts of Tru64 Unix and HP-UX so customers will get the best of both worlds."

As to whether Oracle on Linux is enticing Alpha users to migrate off, Power said Unix still has advantages in management and application support.

"There is a range of reasons why you run enterprise Unix over Linux; for example the management tools in Linux are still pretty crude," he said. "I've seen a number of Intel-Oracle RAC systems where the TCO was lower, but there are reasons why you wouldn't go that way. There are additional licensing costs for Oracle RAC so it may be cheaper to buy a two-processor Unix system."

HP's Unix marketing manager, Mary Ellen Lewandowski, said this processor release is the last significant upgrade that was committed in the roadmap.

First developed in 1992, the Alpha processor was well regarded by analysts for its technical capabilities, but it never managed to attain the market share of rival RISC processors from IBM, Sun, or HP. Its death blow came with the Compaq acquisition when it became a victim of HP's strategic decision to adopt Intel's Itanium processor in favour of RISC alternatives.

HP will continue to sell its AlphaServers through 2006, and will support them until 2011, Lewandowski said.

The EV7z will be available immediately in HP's AlphaServer GS1280 servers, which start at $US96,100, according to HP.

HP will also offer a faster, 1.15GHz version of the EV7 processor, which ships in its lower-end ES47 and ES80 systems. Pricing for the ES47 and ES80 systems with the new 1.15GHz EV7 will start at $29,200 and $49,300, respectively.

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