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New HP exec forced to focus on servers

Tukwila chip delay slows UX speed promise

Intel announced last week that it's going to run at least nine months late on introducing the latest Tukwila models of the Itanium processor. The delay might put the brakes on purchasing HP Integrity servers until 2010. That will be a slowdown in addition to the one the market is already applying to HP-UX server sales.

HP reported earlier last week — not a great five days for HP's Unix alternative to the 3000 — that Business Critical Server sales have dropped by almost 30 percent against 2008's Q2. (Xeon-based servers did no better.) HP-UX customers might have been waiting for newer Integrity servers powered by Tukwila. Experts agree the Tukwila chips could be twice as fast as the latest Montvale processors.

At today's Intel media event, the vendor was hawking the speed advances of its other, more popular processor, the x86-compatible Xeon family. Intel is talking up the new Nehalem EX versus the current Xeon 7400 chips. Itanium-based solutions such as HP-UX will have to wait until sometime next year for a similar performance boost.

How HP reacts to the Tukwila delay — the chip was postponed in February, then again this month — might be seen in prices for the current Integrity models using Montvale. Given the sales dive and now this extra wait, Montvale-based models could see a healthy discount. Nobody, however, expects HP to announce a skunkworks project to get HP-UX ported for Nehalem/Xeon.

Rather than tout a chip that could revamp power consumption and performance for HP's Unix customers, Intel is boasting today about "the greatest Intel Xeon Performance Leap in History!" A downloadable PDF slide deck from Intel provides such highlights.

That Xeon family, of course, has nothing to do with HP's Unix, instead being the chip of choice for the Windows-migrating customer. Later this summer, AMD is uncapping a six-core "Istanbul" model of its Opteron processor. These announcements and shipments add up to seeing two new Windows powerhouses emerge in a year when the HP-UX Integrity servers will get no processor refresh from Intel.

But there's another way to look at this news for the customer migrating to HP-UX. A migration that's set to go live during 2010 might take advantage of extraordinary hardware pricing on Integrity servers over the next year.

Or, a customer investing in a system to run HP's Unix could have to accept the fact that any migration that goes online before 2011 is likely to get older, more power-hungry processors — which will have been well-tested over more than 18 months of field use.

Lower prices and better testing are both core values for the HP 3000 community. And that's as good a coat of paint as anybody can put on what the IT Web site The Register calls the longest delay in Itanium's history.