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HP catches up to slim-server competitors

Hewlett-Packard introduces its new super-slim server designed for corporate customers and large Web sites, catching up to rivals IBM and Compaq Computer.

Hewlett-Packard has caught up to rivals IBM and Compaq Computer with a new super-slim server, a small but important product designed for corporate customers and large Web sites.

HP's new LP 1000R squeezes two processors into a 1.75-inch space, a coveted design size for customers who want to stack up as much processing power as possible into racks filled with computers. Yahoo in Japan has hundreds of the models installed, said John Ozil, worldwide marketing manager for HP's NetServer division. DreamWorks SKG in the United States also is using the system.

However, designing such servers is difficult because things can get hot--42 of them are stacked on top of each other in a single rack. This is especially the case as chips, such as the 1GHz Pentium IIIs used in the 1000R, get faster and consequently hotter.

Competitors beat HP to the punch with their own skinny server designs, but HP argues its models are more sophisticated, offering features such as the capacity to hold three high-speed hard disks.

"Fortunately, we did have the LPR," a 3.5-inch-thick, two-processor machine introduced in June 1999, said Mari Young, senior product line manager for the NetServer division. "It did help us go through without completely losing market share because of not having anything to offer."

Compaq, the top seller of Intel-based servers, introduced its skinny Photon server in June. IBM, which for months had relied on a model from Network Engines, introduced its own design in October.

Intel designs aren't the only thin competitors. Sun Microsystems has a single-processor Netra T1 that sells well, and API Networks offers a two-processor machine with comparatively powerful Alpha chips.

The LP 1000R has an estimated street price of $3,799 and is available now. However, the company will offer a "utility pricing" scheme designed to appeal to customers who don't want to pay for machines that aren't being used all the time, such as Web hosting companies whose sites experience occasional surges in traffic. Under the utility pricing, HP leases the equipment to the customer, who pays HP according to how much the CPUs were actually used, Ozil said.

Coming in early spring will be a bigger model, the LP 2000R, which also has two processors but accommodates more hard disks and expansion slots. It's likely to be used for higher-end tasks than the LPR predecessor, including e-mail and application serving, Young said.

HP also released two storage products designed for bolting hard disks and tape backup units into racks.