Entry-level server market hots up

Hewlett-Packard has launched a new line of entry-level Unix servers, part of a broader effort to earn the vendor a bigger slice of the estimated $US18 billion worldwide market for such computer systems, company officials said.

HP has also announced a program called Servers on Demand, which will let customers install the new servers at their premises and not pay for them until they actually switch them on, according to HP officials.

Dubbed the HP9000 A400 and A500, the new servers will be available worldwide on June 1, and are aimed at service providers, Internet start-ups and large businesses, HP said.

The A400 includes a single PA Risc (reduced instruction set computer) processor, 2Gbytes of RAM (random access memory) and two I/O (input/output) slots. The A500 includes two processors, 8Gbytes of RAM and four I/O slots, Miller said.

The servers are available with either HP's HP-UX 11 or the Linux operating system, he added.

The two servers are rack-mountable and come bundled with a handful of key Internet software applications including Nokia's WAP (wireless application protocol) server software, Infoseek's search engine, and load-balancing software from Resonate.

"We're focusing on four key areas: wireless, e-commerce, Internet infrastructure and content distribution," said John Miller, a worldwide product line marketing manager at HP.

The inclusion of Nokia's WAP software makes HP's new servers "the first out-of-the-box wireless Web Unix servers in the marketplace", Miller said.

The company is also committed to a six-hour repair time and providing Linux support directly from HP, Miller said.

The new servers are designed to help HP gain market share from Sun Microsystems, which led the entry-level server market in 1999 in terms of unit shipments, Miller said.

"The growth of the Internet is primarily being driven by these one- to four-processor kinds of servers; a lot of the growth is coming at this entry-level. Unit numbers motivate applications developers, and HP is very keen to maintain its broad portfolio of applications."

Sun has managed to position itself as a dotcom provider, a niche which has helped the company to secure new business among ASPs (application service providers) and ISPs (Internet service providers), two rapidly growing areas of the market, said Jean Bozman, a research director at IDC's server group.

The vendor's Server on Demand program aims to help companies deal with the unpredictable demand for server capacity created by the Internet. Businesses don't want to be caught off-guard by the need for additional computing capacity, but they also don't want to pay for computers that they aren't using yet, Miller said.

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