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HP fights to keep its Unix edge

In a bid to keep its high-end HP-UX brand of Unix a relevant player in the enterprise network operating system market, Hewlett-Packard is coming out swinging.

Normally stoic Hewlett-Packard (HWP) is coming out swinging in its bid to keep its HP-UX brand of Unix a relevant player in the enterprise network operating system market.

Rival Sun Microsystems continues to apply heat and reap mounds of press ink due to a combined strategy to promote its own operating system and server hardware, and ridicule software monolith Microsoft in the process. But HP officials insist that their brand of Unix remains the true alternative to Windows NT at the high end of the computing market.

HP officials said they expect Sun's Solaris version of Unix to be "crushed" by low-end Windows NT Server sales and high-end HP-UX. "Everyone else is just a challenger," said David Scott, HP-UX worldwide software and solutions marketing manager for HP's enterprise server division.

The latest version, HP-UX 11.0, will include support for 64-bit applications, which means the OS can crunch larger chunks of data at a time, and will offer Very Large Memory (VLM), a feature that stores more data locally for quicker access during queries. The company will retain support for more popular 32-bit applications as well. HP officials are quick to point to Sun's current road map to 64 bits as evidence that the company's Solaris OS has lost its way ? a full blown 64-bit Solaris is not due until sometime next year.

In keeping with a growing sentiment in the Unix systems market to simplify installation, configuration, and administration of the sometimes esoteric software, HP will also include a utility called Ignite/UX that simplifies deployment of the OS across several systems. Other administration tools allow a network manager to deploy applications on top of the OS and include browser-based Java utilities.

HP officials are also boasting brand-new numbers from the Transaction Processing Performance Council that show a nearly 30 percent boost in a price/performance comparison vs. the closest competitor, a Sun 6000 running Solaris.

Analysts note that Sun has had success in selling a new line of enterprise servers and is gaining steam on HP in the Unix-based systems space. Unix OS software and server hardware based on RISC (reduced instruction set computing) are intrinsically tied together in sales. HP has spent recent months filling in the high and low ends of its Unix-based systems line, promoting a similar strategy to Sun.