Hewlett Packard will sell its last new AlphaServer system next month - forcing users to decide whether to make one last hardware upgrade or move to a new platform.

The AlphaServer line is a proven and reliable technology, say its fans, the systems originally developed by DEC and acquired by HP through Compaq which itself had purchased Digital.

HP has also promised to support AlphaServer until 2011, but after a 27 October cut-off date for new orders, availability will become less certain. HP is instead pushing its Itanium-based Integrity server line, which it has ported OpenVMS to.

Martha Roberts, a systems manager at a financial services firm that she asked not be identified, said however that her company has opted to stick with AlphaServers for now. Her firm recently spent millions purchasing more than 20 systems after determining it would be more cost- effective to keep running its custom-built applications on the soon-to-be-discontinued hardware and HP's OpenVMS operating system.

Roberts said the new AlphaServers that her firm bought will be used until the end-of-support date at a minimum and possibly longer. "I've got servers that I'm replacing right now that are 14 years old," she said.

Mike Trimbach, an OpenVMS manager at Computer Sciences, runs AlphaServers and said his client is evaluating whether to upgrade to the latest AlphaServers or switch to Integrity. He added that the potential cost of migrating applications will be the deciding issue. "It may be more cost-effective to just go with the last Alpha."

Although HP will continue to develop and support OpenVMS on the Integrity line, the same can't be said for Tru64 Unix, an operating system that has consistently been praised by users for its clustering and file management capabilities. Several years ago, HP considered moving Tru64's clustering technology and file system into HP-UX, but the company rejected the idea, in part because doing so would have forced all HP-UX users to upgrade.

Instead, HP has been offering its ServiceGuard fail-over software with HP-UX, along with a file system that was developed by Veritas. If a system in a ServiceGuard cluster goes down, its processing workload is shifted to other servers. But each system requires its own copy of HP-UX, which increases management overhead. That isn't the case with clusters based on Tru64, according to HP.

HP officials have said they expect corporate users to rely more on virtualisation than clustering.