Sun, HP bolster Unix servers with faster CPUs

Unix server rivals Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. last week separately upgraded their product lines by adding models that feature faster and more powerful processors.

Sun added new versions of its Sun Fire 3800, 4800, 6800, 12K and 15K servers that are based on the company's latest UltraSPARC III chip. The 1.05-GHz processor delivers a 15 percent performance boost over the previous 900-MHz UltraSPARC III device, Sun said.

The upgraded servers also feature a Sun technology called Uniboard that lets users run both the 900-MHz and 1.05-GHz processors in a single partition within the same server. Sun said the CPU/memory board technology makes it possible to upgrade processors incrementally and to do so without having to bring down an entire system.

HP, meanwhile, refreshed both the server line based on its PA-RISC processors and the AlphaServer product family that it bought as part of its acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp. in May.

HP said its 875-MHz PA-8700+ processor, which was introduced in the company's high-end Superdome server two months ago, is now also available in the 16-way rp8400, eight-way rp7410 and four-way rp5400 series of systems. Those machines previously topped out with a 750-MHz processor.

In addition, HP introduced a two-processor AlphaServer DS25 system that uses a 1-GHz Alpha processor and added a 1.25-GHz version of that chip to the AlphaServer ES45.

The company also said its GS80, GS160 and GS320 systems will be upgraded with a 1.224-GHz processor later this month.

Processor upgrades such as the ones announced by Sun and HP can offer a relatively easy way for users to improve the performance of their Unix servers, especially if they're using "old and obsolete systems," said Charles King, an analyst at The Sageza Group Inc. in Mountain View, Calif.

"But in the current economic environment, most people will look at these incremental upgrades and say, 'That's nice, but I can get by with what I have for another year,' " King predicted.

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