New HP server boosts drive to 'Net

Aiming to offer better performance than ever before for users of mid-priced servers, Hewlett-Packard yesterday announced the new HP 9000 N-Class Enterprise Server, designed for engineering and Internet-based business applications.

The machine, starting at just over $A100,000, offers some of the best performance specifications for Web-based transaction applications for any server at any price, claimed HP officials here. It will also let users upgrade to future IA-64 processors -- which HP has worked with Intel to design - by simply replacing the motherboard, according to officials.

"This announcement is a very big deal for HP," said Lew Platt, HP's chief executive officer, adding that HP expects the N-Class machines to "revolutionise mid-range computing".

The server is key to HP's strategy for capturing what it calls the "e-services" business, where customers, vendors, service providers and suppliers are all linked through the Internet, according to Platt. "The Internet is serving as a catalyst for a service-based economy," Platt said.

The new machine is at the heart of HP's drive to be at the centre of this market by offering the ability to run mission-critical Web applications at mid-range server prices. The N-Class machine, due to be released in May, features up to eight HP 64-bit PA-8500 processors and the 64-bit HP-UX operating system, according to the company.

Key features of the machine include the following: ability to handle either 360MHz or 440MHz PA-8500 chips; up to 16Gbytes of memory; a 7.6Gbyte per second memory bus; a 3.8Gbyte per second system bus; a 5.8Gbyte per second input/output bus; two internal hot-swap disk bays; and 12 PCI I/O slots.

To upgrade to future IA-64 chips, users need to remove the PA-RISC motherboard and associated bus converter and plug in the IA-64 chips, officials said.

HP is also offering a range of built-in management software for the machine, including a fault-detection system and tools that allow administrators to monitor performance via the Web, officials said. HP is also offering a built-in WebQoS package that lets Web system managers make preferred customers a priority, by giving them immediate access to services at peak times, officials said.

HP clearly targeted Compaq, IBM and Sun Microsystems, offering a series of comparison benchmark figures that showed, for example, the N-Class outperforming any server of any price range in terms of certain Web-based testing. For example in SPECweb96 benchmark tests, which measure basic Web server performance, the N-Class machine reached 24,139 hits per second, a world record, HP said.

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