Qld uni bets on Alpha, for now

Central Queensland University has added another two AlphaServers to its existing 40 despite Hewlett-Packard's decision late last year to stop the platform's development.

"Although we were initially concerned, HP's decision to discontinue Alpha really won't affect our operations in the immediate term," Adrian Yarrow, manager of corporate systems administration, said.

"HP has indicated to us that it will keep selling Alpha systems until 2007 and support the platform until 2011. This gives us a good market testing time for HP's new systems and enough notice for us to make a decision on IA64."

The Rockhampton-based university's Alpha infrastructure consists of mostly two- and four-way ES40 series servers including a number of TruCluster environments. The Alpha servers are used for the core information and communications systems as well as to provide services to a number of external departmental sites. Some 50 Windows 2000 HP Proliant servers and an 80-node Intel supercomputer running Linux make up the remaining bulk the university's infrastructure.

"Compared to IBM and Sun, the biggest advantage Alpha has is in its clustering and management capabilities," said Yarrow, who must ensure a high level of redundancy and reliability for all of the systems. "Still today Alpha surpasses high-end computers for the university's budget. We even recycle old lab computers."

Ian Jenkins, director of information technology at CQU, said the university has a long history with both Alpha and HP.

"We have a 10-year history with the Alpha processor going back to DEC (Digital Equipment Corp) days," Jenkins said. "As for HP, we've been working with it since the 70s."

Jenkins said the level of support by HP is identical to what Compaq offered. "The transition from Compaq to HP has been seamless for us," he said. "The are a small number of HP support staff based in Rockhampton and Mackay and there has been no change in the level of service. Some of the people also date back to DEC days."

According to Yarrow, the only potential difficulty the university is likely to encounter when it comes time to replace its Tru64 Unix on Alpha with HP-UX on IA64 is migrating to the new operating system.

"It's hard to say whether HP is on the right track by integrating Tru64 features into HP-UX as we have minimal experience with HP-UX," Yarrow said. "I hope some of Tru64's better features, such as its file system and clustering capabilities, don't go in heavily modified."

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