HP has continuned its push for Itanium with new Intel-based servers.

But while the company wants its users to shift to the processor, it also released a new PA-RISC chip that it claims significantly boosts performance.

That chip, the PA 8800, will deliver a 50 per cent performance increase over the PA 8700 if the servers are running the same number of processors, we are told. But that performance boost could apparently be as much as 250 per cent when upgrading an existing server to double capacity.

The new chip is a dual-core version, although it's no larger than an older single-core processor. That means that what's now a four-way processor could become an eight-way chip if the PA 8800 processors are used.

HP is planning to ultimately phase out its RISC chips and migrate users to Itanium, although it still plans at least one more upgrade in 2005. The company also has a version of its Unix operating system, HP-UX, configured for Itanium.

HP is "continuing to make some level of investment in a couple more generations of [the] PA processor to essentially address the need of their install base," said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata. To not do so, he said, would risk user defections.

The company will introduce new PA-RISC products through 2006-07 and support those products at least five years from that point, possibly longer, depending on customer needs, said Don Jenkins, VP of server marketing for business-critical systems at HP.

Another looming Itanium swap is the move of HP's NonStop server line from its MIPS processor. The company said today that it is making the new architecture available for customer review and intends to release its first Itanium-based NonStop server later this year.

HP also detailed new Itanium server configurations, including two low-end products: the HP Integrity rx 1600, priced at £1,600 (€2,350), and a dual-processor box, priced at £2,500 (€3,695).

HP's announcement doesn't include any plans for AMD's Opteron processor and the company hasn't addressed speculation that it's considering offering the chip. HP's two largest competitors already offer it, with Sun just today announcing several new servers built with it.