Homesteaders: RAID your site for enhancement
Why HP stays the Itanium course

Migration leaves the familiar behind

Vista HP 3000 managers will get to observe a migration of a much larger community beginning next week, when Microsoft releases its Vista operating system. The successor to Windows XP has taken almost as long to emerge as the first generations of Itanium-based systems; Microsoft began design in 2001 for Vista; the first public release of an Itanium chip-powered system came more than five years after the hype started for the HP/Intel project.

Releases like Itanium and Vista hope to capture new business for their makers by increasing the feature sets of predcessors. Vista's primary improvement is better security; Itanium's chief advantage is faster computing speed at lower acquisition cost. Eventually, the Tukwilla designs of Itanium, to be used in the Integrity HP servers, will conserve power better than PA-RISC processors or even Itanium predecessors.

New designs always carry change as their baggage, however. With Vista, according to reports from this month's beta testers, peripherals have to be abandoned or upgraded, as is also the case with desktops running CPUs too weak to handle Vista's muscular features.

"Users wanting to run Vista on old systems will have to invest in enhancing memory,’’ said Ravi Swaminathan, vice-president personal systems group, HP India

Itanium, according to its detractors, will force the same kind of changes. Keen on the counting of cores available in the Integrity product line, HP's tally of applications hasn't kept up with the architecture's bright hardware future.

In a presentation at this year's Integrity Road Show, HP flashed a couple of screens at its audience, toting up both numbers: apps and cores. Counting cores makes a computer appear more muscular, much like the feature set of Vista:

Cores (Clicking on the screen above delivers a view large enough to show that core count.)

But those cores lay at the center of an architecture as different from PA-RISC and x86 apps as the advanced engineering could make it. HP's count on apps: 9,000, it said in November.

If your favorite is among them, you will enjoy the full power of Itanium. If not, the processing power might not match PA-RISC, because Itanium will have to do its emulation to run PA-RISC or x86 code.

This doesn't matter to the HP 3000 customer who's moved to Oracle, migrating applications written for IMAGE to a database like Eloquence, which nicely and most quickly takes full advantage of the Itanium differences.

The success stories for Integrity, for the moment, lay in these kinds of customers: those who either have found and count upon a high-profile (and sometimes high-cost) application off the shelf. Or, those who are bringing their 3000 apps to the brand-new, advanced ground of Itanium.

You will be making an investment in Itanium and Integrity if you're sticking with HP, just like you may make the investment in Vista if you are committed to Windows XP and its similarities to the new desktop environment.

But the day is changing on the desktop to a different standard. Applications which don't care about Windows vs. Mac vs. Vista are growing in popularity. And like the apps in the enterprise arena, these programs determine your future path — not the operating environment, or even the hefty hardware. The newer and better come with a cost measured beyond the bargains of entry-level Integrity models. Until those off-the-shelf enterprise apps rise in number, it's a migration trail best followed to Itanium.