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HP's Unix beats Windows in server test

HP releases server speed-test results that for the first time compare its version of Unix with Microsoft's Windows on the company's top-end Itanium server. And the winner is...

Hewlett-Packard released new server speed-test results Wednesday that, for the first time, compare its version of Unix with Windows on the company's top-end Itanium server--and Unix came out ahead.

An HP Integrity Superdome with 64 Itanium 2 6M "Madison" processors posted a score of 824,000 transactions per minute on the Transaction Processing Performance Council's widely watched TPC-C test of a single computer running a busy database. The speed beat not only IBM's previous No. 1 result of 764,000 in June but also the previous top result before that, in May, of 707,000 transactions from a system made up of an HP Superdome server running Windows.

The result provides instructive new information in the years-long competition between Unix and Windows. Although the two operating systems have been pitted against each other, rarely has it been on the same hardware.

Although the system with HP's version of Unix, called HP-UX, was faster, it cost $6.8 million compared with $5.1 million for the Windows system.

HP's Superdome can simultaneously run Linux, Windows and HP-UX in separate partitions. However, the collection of software needed to make such a system is more mature for HP-UX than for Windows or Linux.

HP, which co-developed the Itanium chip designs along with manufacturer Intel, has been working for years on fostering Itanium support among programmers, software companies, business partners and customers.

HP is in the process of simplifying several server lines, gradually replacing Compaq Computer's Alpha processor, SGI's MIPS and HP's own PA-RISC with Itanium. In the meantime, though, HP is updating the existing lines to give customers plenty of time to switch.

On Wednesday, HP said it began shipping a new high-end AlphaServer, the 32-processor GS1280, which is based on the newer EV7 version of the Alpha. Later this year a 64-processor model will arrive. Another update in 2004 will use the faster EV79 processor, the last of the Alpha lineage originally developed at Digital Equipment.

Meanwhile, HP's prime competitors, Sun Microsystems and IBM, are hoping to profit from the changes among HP's customers in coming years. If customers are going to switch to a new server, Sun and IBM argue, they might as well also switch to a new company.