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HP to reinvigorate midrange servers

Hewlett-Packard believes the Internet will inject new vigor into the company's plans to resurrect its HP 3000 server line.

Hewlett-Packard believes the Internet will inject new vigor into the company's plans to resurrect its proprietary HP 3000 server line.

The company plugged a new, faster chip into the midrange Hewlett-Packard 3000 model and is billing the system as a good foundation for e-commerce Web sites, said Christine Martino, a marketing manager for the product.

The HP 3000 severs are part of a decades-old lineage of proprietary systems running the MPE/iX operating system. Earlier in the 1990s, HP had decided to let the HP 3000 line fade away, but the company changed its mind more than a year ago, Martino said. "Proprietary is not a dirty word in some places," she said.

The updated HP 3000 line is likely to appeal to the existing customer base, which is about 70,000 to 100,000 strong, though probably not enough to pull many new sales, said Brad Day, an analyst at Giga Information Group. However, the 3000 line always will play second fiddle to the HP 9000 systems running HP-UX, HP's Unix operating system, he said.

The 989KS/x50, the company's midrange HP 3000 server, now comes with a 240-MHz PA-RISC 8200 chip, boosting its performance above the high-end 997 model, Martino said. Later this year, the 997 will also be upgraded so it can use as many as 12 8200 chips, said Daren Connor, product manager for high availability and system management at HP.

In the longer term, the HP 3000 line will acquire the same underlying hardware as the new N-class series of HP 9000 computers with the newer PA-RISC 8500 chips, Connor said. The N-class servers will be upgradable to Intel's 64-bit chips, he added.

The HP 3000 systems are robust and come with built-in "back-end" business computing abilities such as transaction processing, billing, and inventory management, Martino said. That makes sense for a company getting into Internet retailing, for example, she said.

HP is adding in-house support for the Apache Web server, database software that will let Java programs talk to the HP 3000 ImageSQL and AllbaseSQL database programs, and support for the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), a method of locating people and computing resources.

The HP move is another endorsement of the Apache Web server, an open source project that IBM also embraced.

Although Apache has worked on HP 3000 systems for two years, HP now will provide its own technical support for the software and will make sure new versions of Apache continue to run on HP 3000 machines.

Among other improvements to the line, HP added the ability for administrators to manage the systems from afar with a secure Web console, improved the memory system performance, and added a Fibre Channel-based method of separate HP 3000 systems and their storage systems.