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HP boosts Unix for Itanium

Hewlett-Packard is pressing its Unix advantage for Intel's Itanium 2, announcing advanced supporting software on Monday.

Hewlett-Packard is pressing its Unix advantage for Intel's Itanium 2, announcing advanced supporting software Monday.

The HP-UX 11i version 1.6, available in the third week of July, will bring HP's Itanium version of Unix closer to parity with the version that long has run on its proprietary PA-RISC processors. HP, the co-inventor of the Itanium chips, is moving its server line over the course of years from PA-RISC to the Itanium family.

HP-UX once was one of many Itanium operating system contenders, including at least five versions of Unix, but now that list has been whittled down chiefly to Linux, Windows and HP-UX. That winnowing leaves HP with a strong advantage--assuming the Itanium lives up to its potential to grow into real competition to high-end 64-bit chips from IBM, SGI and Sun Microsystems.

IBM decided against selling or supporting AIX 5L for Itanium, a product that was the result of a years-long collaboration project code-named Monterey. Sun's Solaris was the victim of squabbling between Intel and Sun. SGI decided to keep to support only Linux, not its Irix, for Itanium computers. As a result of HP's acquisition of Compaq Computer, its Tru64 Unix is being phased out over a period of years, and its features are being folded into HP-UX.

Intel's Itanium 2, the second generation of Intel's new 64-bit processor line, is due out this summer. Along with it are coming a bevy of crucial components called chipsets that will enable everything from two-processor to 32-processor servers.

The difference between HP-UX 11i version 1.5 and 1.6 is like the difference between the first and second Itaniums. The earlier version "was more or less a tire-kicking, early adopter" version, said Ram Appalaraju, director of marketing for HP-UX.

HP-UX is included with the price of its Unix servers, but because several different operating systems may be purchased on Itanium systems, HP is charging for the new version. The price is $2,995 per processor, except on single- or dual-processor systems, in which case it's free, Appalaraju said.

With 1.6, HP adds many new features designed for real-world use of the systems:

•  The ability to run programs written for PA-RISC chips without any changes through translation software called Aries. The translation software is slower but ensures easier software shifts.

•  Software for allocating which computing tasks are allowed to use which computing resources.

•  The ability to detect and shut down misbehaving processors and memory. PA-RISC servers can automatically fire up unused spares in this situation, but that feature won't make it to Itanium systems until mid-2003, Appalaraju said.

•  MC Serviceguard "clustering" software, which allows jobs to run on a group of servers and lets one take over when another fails. The clustering software will support as many as 16 servers in the cluster.

•  Support for BEA Systems' application server, a popular software package for e-commerce Web sites.

•  Support for 26 different adjustments that can be made to the heart of the HP-UX operating system without having to shut down the machine when making those changes. Studies of thousands of HP customers show that tweaking those 26 adjustments, done to optimize the server for different types of computing jobs, is responsible for 75 percent of voluntary reboots.

Appalaraju also described several future plans for HP-UX. About a year from now, the first version for both Itanium and PA-RISC will debut, along with the ability to run on servers with as many as 128 processors--a necessary step for future top-end Superdome servers. That version is called 11i version 2.

In that same time frame, HP will release test versions of software to let Linux software for Itanium servers run unchanged on HP-UX Itanium servers, Appalaraju said.

In mid-2004, HP-UX will acquire high-end clustering features from Tru64 Unix, which analysts praise for having the most sophisticated features for making business software run across a group of servers as if it were a single machine. That version is 11i version 2T.

About 18 months later--some time in 2005--11i version 3 will arrive, and will include increasing abilities to adjust itself automatically to changing jobs and repairing problems automatically.