HP is offering a "transition" kit against a backdrop of ongoing joint development work with Intel on the 64-bit Merced chip, due in 1999. Its introduction is expected to accelerate Intel's penetration of the high-end--or so-called enterprise--corporate computer market, currently populated by Unix systems based on processors such as HP's PA-RISC.
In order to encourage customers to make the switch, HP is now offering its Software Transition Kit (STK), which allows customers of HP's PA-RISC systems to start moving custom programs such as large databases over to Merced and optimize their performance.
"The software transition kit is a way of assuring vendors will have applications ready when the new machines come out," says Mike Schiff, principal analyst for data warehousing services with Current Analysis.
The kit's availability will also help HP to maintain a market for its own version of the Unix operating system, called HP-UX. Though applications already running on the HP-UX operating system and PA-RISC chips will be able to run on Merced, unmodified software won't run as efficiently as possible.
Also, HP is interested in making its software as fast as possible since it will have stiff competition from a number of vendors offering various other "flavors" of the Unix operating system (OS). Rivals include Sun Microsystems' Solaris as well as Microsoft's Windows NT. HP says the software is available for free on its Web site.
HP is still on a path to introduce a new generation of its in-house PA-RISC processors by early 1999 called the 8500, says Nathan Brookwood, processor analyst with market research firm Dataquest. That chip should be useful through the year 2002, he estimates, by which time HP will have decided if it needs to make another follow-on to the 8500 series processor.
"Clearly, [stopping development of PA-RISC] is something that is not immediate--it will take a few years to play out," Brookwood says. "By 2002, maybe, [HP] should know if Merced is going to be the cat's meow, and how difficult it is to migrate to Merced."
In the meanwhile, HP has its bets covered in case problems arise with Merced's development, he says.