HP, Compaq ready high-end servers

The floodgates for Pentium Pro servers are starting to open wide as Hewlett-Packard and Compaq ready product introductions and IBM starts shipping its server this week. HP will announce its Pentium Pro NetServers this week, with Compaq following with its announcement of Pentium Pro ProLiant 5000 systems June 3. HP will fill out its Windows NT-based NetServer line with a quad- processor NetServer LX Pro; a dual-processor LH Pro; and an upgradable Pentium model, the LH Plus, sources said.

Officials acknowledged plans to deliver Pentium Pro-based NetServers by mid-July using Intel's motherboard and chassis designs but declined to comment on specifications. HP will offer the 166MHz version of the Pentium Pro with 512KB of on- chip Level 2 cache, sources said. The company also plans to offer a 200MHz version but has not finalised plans for availability of that chip with either 256KB or 512KB of cache, they added.

Intel officials said the 200MHz chip with 256KB of cache is now shipping in volume. The 200MHz version with 512KB of cache will ship in volume in July, they added. The LX Pro will challenge the Unix world by providing 12 hot-swappable drive bays and a maximum of 512Mb of error-correcting code (ECC) memory, sources said. The LH Pro will sport six drive bays, and both models will come standard with 32Mb of ECC RAM and a quad-speed CD-Rom drive, the sources added. The systems will also support Extended Data Out memory with parity checking to meet lower end budgets. Both 2.1Gb and 4.2Gb hard drives will be offered, the sources said. Entry-level pricing for the 166MHz systems is expected to be less than $US10,000, according to sources.

"HP's big advantage will be its brand and healthy services organisations to wrap around it. HP also has the ability to integrate NT and Unix and provide a better, lower cost overall," said Rob Enderle, senior analyst at Giga Information Group, in Santa Clara, Calif.

HP will also announce plans to make its MC/ServiceGuard fail-over technology available for the servers and to support Microsoft's WolfPack clustering APIs when they become available. HP's fail-over technology will first support Fast Ethernet connections. Support for HP's fiber-optic interconnect technology will follow, sources said.

Though Compaq's products won't match HP's storage and memory offerings, it will steal some thunder in terms of enterprise systems management, sources said. Compaq will announce partnerships with Tivoli Systems, Seagate Technology, BMC Software, and Boole & Babbage, sources said. The company is also working to develop a partnership with Computer Associates International, they added.

"Compaq's main focus is going to be more complete offerings for the enterprise user, delivering not only technology but the ability to integrate and manage systems," said Jerry Sheridan, principal analyst at Dataquest, in San Jose, Calif.

Compaq will deliver two ProLiant 5000 models. ProLiants based on the 166MHz Pentium Pro with 512KB of cache are due to ship in June or early July; servers based on the 200MHz chip with 256KB of cache will be delivered in July, sources said. The systems will come standard with 64Mb of ECC RAM, expandable to 128Mb, the sources added. Initial systems will use SIMM technology; later models will incorporate dual in-line memory modules. Both 2Gb and 4Gb drives will be available, according to sources.

IBM, for its part, announced a 166MHz Pentium Pro server in March at CeBit. The server, which supports four Pentium Pros by using two processor cards, will ship beginning this week, IBM said. IBM will deliver a standard quad-processor model based on the Intel Pocahontas chassis in the third quarter, sources said.

(Ed Scannell contributed to this article.)

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