Compaq reaffirmed its commitment to the Alpha chip this week by announcing that it will use the 64-bit processor in upcoming versions of NonStop Himalaya high-end servers from its Tandem business unit.
Compaq has said repeatedly that it planned to integrate the Alpha technology, which it acquired in its purchase of Digital, into its overall company strategy. But until now, the company hadn't specified in which product groups it would use the processor.
Compaq plans to introduce its first Alpha-based Himalaya server in 2002, after the EV7 Alpha processor comes available in 2001, according to Volker Dietz, director of Compaq's Tandem Enterprise Computing Group, Europe, Middle East and Africa. Since 1991, Tandem's Himalaya systems have been based on RISC chips from Mips Technologies.
Himalaya systems are used for critical enterprise applications and offer a high-level of operational stability, manageability and processing power. Upwards of 60 per cent of the world's stock market transactions are done on Himalaya machines. The machines are also used for large-scale health-care, e-commerce and retail applications.
Over the last year, many Himalaya users have expressed concern over the system's reliance on chips from Mips Technologies, Dietz said. Because the focus of the Mips chip seems to be moving toward the consumer electronics market, Tandem wasn't sure it was the right processor for its high-end, enterprise servers, Dietz said.
Initially, Compaq thought it would use Intel's upcoming 64-bit Merced processor in Himalaya machines, Dietz admitted. But delays in the chip's expected availability led Compaq to decide not to wait on the Merced, he said.
"We are in a tight time schedule to get away from Mips," Dietz said. "We had seen problems of availability dates (for Merced) getting too far out and we weren't sure if the delays would get worse." In addition, Intel's predictions of Merced performance weren't as convincing as what the company could get from the Alpha platform, he added.
"Compaq's main strategy is Merced, but Tandem was in a special situation in that our customers wanted to know what was going to happen to Himalaya and we needed to decide now," Dietz said.