HP will release a range of Itanium 2-based server updates this week, including faster processors, enhanced virtualisation, support for SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and a pay-per-use option for Windows users. It hopes they will continue to offer a powerful alternative to RISC-based systems from IBM and Sun.

In addition, HP will ship OpenVMS 8.2 for Integrity servers, a long-awaited port of the Alpha server operating system to Itanium. OpenVMS support adds one more option for customers who already have the choice of running HP-UX, Linux or Windows on Integrity servers, and is aimed at making it easier for existing Alpha customers to make the move to Itanium.

"There's nothing shocking here. But overall you look at this announcement in its entirety and you say HP is making progress down the Itanium road," says Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata.

The updates come a month after HP announced it was handing off its Itanium processor design team to Intel. At the same time, it stressed its commitment to Itanium and said it would invest $3 billion over the next three years in its Integrity servers. The announcements represent part of that $3 billion investment. Among the updates are:

  • Availability of new Itanium 2 processors with 9MB of cache, which HP says offer up to a 25 per cent performance increase over the existing Itanium 2 with 6MB of cache.
  • Pay-per-use pricing for Windows systems. HP already has automated metering technology to measure CPU use and charge accordingly for its Unix servers, and this extends the option to Windows platforms.
  • Global Workload Manager, which lets customers move resources and workloads between servers to maximize efficiency. In the past, Workload Manager could move loads only within a single server. Global Workload Manager is supported on HP-UX and Linux today, but HP says Windows and OpenVMS support is coming.
  • Support for SuSE Linux ES 9, built on the Linux 2.6 kernel, letting customers run Linux on boxes with as many as 16 processors.

IBM and Dell are among a handful of other vendors that sell Itanium 2-based servers, but HP is by far the biggest Itanium backer. HP expects Integrity server sales to account for half of all business-critical server sales by year-end and 70 per cent by the end of 2006.