Compaq, Samsung pump $500 million into Alpha

Attempting to dispel long-standing concerns that Compaq Computer is not fully committed to its 64-bit Alpha microprocessor technology, Alpha, the company yesterday announced investments of $US500 million in the chip architecture.

The underlying CPU technology for almost all of Compaq's high-end servers has gotten a boost thanks to Compaq's teaming up with Samsung Electronics Co. and Samsung's subsidiary, Alpha Processor. The three signed a memorandum of understanding that will result in a $500 million combined investment to advance Alpha markets, including the segment using the Linux operating system, the companies said.

"This is proof of Compaq's long-term commitment to Alpha," said Jesse Lipcon, worldwide vice president for Alpha technology at Compaq.

Samsung will invest $200 million while Compaq and API will invest $300 million over the next few years, Lipcon said. In addition to the initial $500 million incremental investment, Compaq, Samsung and API will invest $1.5 billion during the next decade. Of that additional $1.5 billion, roughly 40 percent each will be spent by Samsung and Compaq, while API will contribute 20 percent, according to Lipcon.

Compaq is a major partner of Intel, the maker of the soon-to-be-shipped 64-bit Itanium chip. Compaq will sell servers based on the competing chip and this has lead some analysts to predict that Compaq would slow down or stop Alpha development, Lipcon said.

"Compaq is the leading provider of systems based on the Intel architecture ... we expect to have the best Itanium servers," Lipcon said.

The money discussed in yesterday's announcement will be pumped into the semiconductor manufacturing process, as well as into marketing efforts. Samsung will invest in newer technologies in the manufacturing process, including copper interconnect, low-K dielectric and silicon-on-insulator technology, according to the statement. Increased funding of independent software vendors to develop for Alpha will also be a key target for spending, Lipcon said.

Specifically, the three will target certain segments of the Linux OS market. "We don't see Linux as a market for Alpha per se," said Lipcon. "We are targeting several vertical markets." Compaq expects to see Linux on Alpha in the area of network infrastructure and high-performance technical computing and perhaps in some e-commerce applications.

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