HP to unveil Unix server virtualization capabilities

Troubled by an underperforming storage and server systems business, Hewlett-Packard (HP) plans this week to unveil new server virtualization capabilities and an updated Unix operating system that HP says will boost performance and make it easier for users to move to the Intel Itanium line of servers.

HP plans to use the HP World user conference in Chicago this month to highlight the new technologies, which bring Unix virtualization and management features to its Itanium servers. HP has announced plans to phase out its PA-Risc and Alpha servers and standardize on the Intel platform.

The server news comes after HP this week announced third-quarter results showing increased revenue, but disappointing performance in its Enterprise Servers and Storage Group. Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina estimated that issues affecting the servers and storage group cost the company US$400 million in revenue and US$275 million in operating profit.

Fiorina said three issues have dogged the server and storage group during the quarter: a less-than-smooth migration to a new order and supply-chain management system in the U.S., aggressive discounting and poor channel management in Europe, and significantly lower-than-expected storage revenue.

Several sales executives were let go as a result, including former server group chief Peter Blackmore, who was executive vice president of HP's Customer Solutions Group.

HP intends to invigorate the server business this week with announcements including updates to HP-UX as support for PA-Risc-based HP 9000 servers, meaning that a single operating system can run across both the HP 9000 and Integrity servers. In addition to providing an improvement in performance of up to 25 percent for users upgrading from HP-UX 11i Version 1, the updated operating system will enable common administration across HP 9000 and Integrity servers, and will maintain source and data compatibility when moving to the Itanium systems.

Further, HP's high-availability software, Serviceguard, running on HP-UX 11i Version 2 will let users group HP 9000 and Integrity servers into one cluster.

In addition, the company plans to announce updates to its Virtual Server Environment (VSE), a virtualization toolkit based on its HP-UX workload manager that gives users the ability to pool resources that can grow and shrink according to application demands. One announcement next week will be that VSE will run on multiple operating systems, meaning that the virtualization features previously available only on HP-UX now will run on Linux.

HP also plans to announce a final update to its Alpha line of servers, which it plans to stop selling in 2006. Faster processors will be available for the AlphaServer ES47 system, which scales to two processors, the AlphaServer ES80 system, which scales to eight processors, and the GS1280 system, which scales to 64 processors. HP executives say customers will get faster systems for the same price as today's boxes.

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