Workstation markets and design requirements often receive less attention than PC or server markets, but nonetheless are hotly competitive with power users demanding superior performance. Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and Silicon Graphics have traditionally battled for pre-eminence in this space in what Patty Azzarello, worldwide marketing manager for HP workstations, calls a "leapfrog" fashion. Azzarello discusses competition in the workstation market with IDG's David PenderyIDG: What are the unique demands of the workstation market?
Azzarello: The demands start around performance - interactive performance, graphics performance and application performance. A key part of our strategy is to pursue leadership on those three axes.
Our customers in the technical markets are typically large organisations that are designing automobiles and aircraft, or very large chips and integrated circuits. The demands to work with those designs require a lot of power on the desktop.
Are your approaches in Windows NT and Unix workstation design and sales different from one another?
Customers really feel very comfortable with the Unix environment compared to NT. We're finding there is a lot of interest in the choice of Unix or NT, but customers are seeing a real value in their established Unix infrastructures. In addition to performance requirements, they see they have engineers who are trained on Unix; they have internally developed applications on Unix; they have data based on Unix; and their network runs based on Unix.
The thought of moving that to an NT environment begins to look very expensive, and they're beginning to really see the value in their existing Unix infrastructure.
How is HP working to unify the NT and Unix architectures?
The point is to provide the most compelling upgrade path in the industry to the IA-64 architecture, developed by HP and Intel, which will run both Unix and NT.
While we pursue the Unix market aggressively, we provide the choice of Unix or NT to our customers.
Elaborate on your IA-64 strategy and approach in the workstation market.
We have been, with Intel, working on EPIC (the Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing) architecture. This is the next generation after RISC architecture. HP is able to offer customers a choice of either Unix or NT.
Whichever one they choose, they have an upgrade path to IA-64. So they are able to protect their investment, and their data in the application will be binary-compatible whether they choose Unix or NT.
Is PC pricing moving into workstation markets, bringing prices down?
Well, I would not say that workstations have been overpriced in the past. The cost of manufacturing workstations has come down over the last 10 years, and the prices that you see reflect this as well as the competitive landscape. PC workstations are certainly putting pressure on Unix workstation prices, so about a year ago, we combined our Unix and PC workstation businesses with the intent of pursuing the workstation market very aggressively.
We needed to continue a very aggressive posture on reducing the cost structure of our Unix workstation business so we could be aggressive in the market and be ready for the price pressure that was coming from PC workstations.
Characterise the competition in the workstation market.
Sun continues to be a good competitor. We find them around many corners. SGI has historically been a real contender in the graphics workstation marketplace, but SGI has been going through a tremendous amount of turmoil these days and so we have been able to win some market share. And we've been winning market share against all of our competitors since our introduction in September 1997 of our new product line.