Vendor shrinkage a Risc to servers

Asia-Pacific region users in the market for enterprise-class Risc servers should brace themselves for a severe case of vendor shrinkage.

IBM and Sun Microsystems will be the only 64-bit Risc vendors left standing by 2005, according to Gartner Group.

Among the victims of attrition will be Hewlett-Packard's PA-Risc for the HP-UX operating system, Compaq's Alpha for Tru64 and Open VMS and MIPS for NonStop Kernel, claims Gartner senior analyst Matthew Boon.

The combination of HP and Compaq will continue to compete in the 64-bit server market with systems based on Intel's Itanium technology which fold features of Tru64 into HP-UX.

Customers have been warned to expect limited future Alpha development, but HP officials said no such announcement has been made about PA-Risc.

Speaking at Gartner's four-day annual Asia-Pacific Symposium in Brisbane, Boon predicted high-end Risc systems will survive as a profitable niche market through to 2010.

They will come under increasing pressure from the Intel platform, which will also continue to dominate the low-end volume market.

Despite vendor and operating system consolidation, the server market will confront users with a confusing picture, Boon believes.

For example, Gartner sees no hard and fast boundaries emerging in the near future between general-purpose servers and appliance servers specialised for specific functions.

Helping the confusion along is a corporate perception of the Asia-Pacific market share enjoyed by vendors that is at variance with reality.

According to a Gartner survey of 850 corporates in the region, Compaq was seen as the leading vendor. In reality, its low-end volumes in the first half of this year were easily surpassed by the revenues of IBM (33 per cent market share), Hewlett-Packard (20 per cent) and Sun (18 per cent).

The message for corporates was to look beyond their perceptions, Boon said.

Gartner dismisses Linux and open source as a threat to Unix and WinNT/2000 in the server arena in the near future.

Its figures show corporate confidence in Linux has waned as IT managers educate themselves about Linux's state of maturity.

Asked last March if they believed Linux could provide their organisation with the functionality of NT or Unix, 69 per cent said yes. By last month, that figure had dropped to 49 per cent "because they are clearer now about its capability as an operating system", Boon said.

Gartner also believes that Microsoft's .Net message will impede the spread of Linux in the Web services arena.

Although server consolidation is currently a hot topic, vendor hype far exceeds vendor performance in the consolidation space, Boon warned.

Concerning the crucial area of workload management products, quality varies widely between vendors and, he said, enterprises planning server consolidation need to be aware of that.

In general, Unix workload management will maintain a three-year lead over Windows but lag the functionality of the IBM zSeries through the next few years, according to Gartner.

One thing that won't change is the dominance of the Big Three -- IBM, HP/Compaq and Sun in the Asia-Pacific server market.

They have commanded 87 per cent of the market between them for the past two years with no immediate challenger in sight, according to Gartner.

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