HP has produced the last in its proud line of PA-RISC chips - the PA-8900.

The new processor will be last of the processors that have powered HP's Unix systems since the late 1980s. Support for the HP 9000 servers with the processors will continue until 2011, but from now on HP will focus on Intel's Itanium 2 processors, which power HP's Integrity servers.

The PA-8900 will have double the L2 memory cache of its predecessor, the PA-8800, but run only slightly faster. Both processors house two separate cores. The PA-8900 will be available in 800MHz, 1GHz and 1.1GHz configurations with 64MB of on-chip cache. The PA-8800 has a maximum clock speed of 1.0GHz and supports a cache of 32MB.

The new processors will be available in HP's full range of HP 9000 servers, ranging from the dual-processor rp3410 to the PA-RISC version of Superdome, which ships with as many as 128 processors. The new chip will cost the same as its predecessor.

HP observers had expected the PA-8900 to have a clock speed in the range of 1.2GHz to 1.5GHz. But according to industry analyst Rich Partridge, it is not surprising that HP decided to release such a modest update, given the fact that it has bet its future on the Integrity line.

"HP is committed to Itanium as its high-end processor," said Partridge, who is lead server analyst with Ideas International. "HP wants to pour all of its investments and attentions into accelerating the user acceptance of the Itanium product," he added.

While HP 9000 users were probably looking for a bigger performance jump, a faster PA-8900 would "allow them to be comfortable staying on PA-RISC for a longer amount of time," he said. "I don't think HP wants to prolong the transition any longer."

So far, HP's customers have been reluctant to move to the Integrity systems, but things have been picking up recently. Sales of Integrity servers in the three months ended April 30 were up 37 percent, year over year, the company said last week when it reported its most recent financial results.

Though the PA-8900 will be the final processor upgrade for the HP 9000, it is not the final innovation. HP is readying a new chipset, code named Arches, for the high end of the HP 9000 line. Arches is expected to begin shipping in the first quarter of 2006 and will have three to four times as much bandwidth between components as does HP's current offerings.