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911 calls HP

Intrado, a key emergency call provider, will refresh the nation's creaking 911 network with HP servers.

Hewlett-Packard has managed to convince communications company Intrado, which serves as the backbone of the nation's 911 network, to commit to using HP's lineup of Integrity servers as it upgrades the network.

The HP technology, which previously has been slow to catch on in the marketplace, eventually will replace IBM servers currently used in the network.

said Wednesday it will go "HP only" during an upgrade to accommodate the growing numbers of customers using new technologies such as voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, a software that lets Internet connections double as phone lines. Next-generation 911 services will also make better use of cell phone cameras by allowing callers to send uploaded images to dispatchers, the company said.

HP's success in converting one of its partners to Integrity, a server lineup based on the Itanium processor that runs the HP-UX version of Unix, is good news for the company. HP, which deferred to Intrado for comments on the deal, and chipmaker Intel have had a hard time attracting customers for Itanium-based products. HP is also partway through a year-long cancellation of two Unix server lines, its own HP 9000 products based on PA-RISC chips and the AlphaServer products it acquired from Compaq.

HP's deal with Intrado has some impact on IBM, whose equipment Intrado installed in about 50 percent of the emergency dispatch centers it serves. Big Blue is no longer a "go forward" choice, according to Intrado Chief Technology Officer Stephen Meer. HP servers, now deployed in the other half of the network, will replace IBM equipment once that equipment wears out, and HP servers will be used to outfit any new customers, according to Meer.

By choosing just one company, "there's no ambiguity on our technology path going forward," Meer said. Police and other agencies running the nation's emergency call centers have said that Intrado's mix of server technologies increased the price of doing business and made servicing the system more complicated for emergency call-center IT staffs. As a consequence, decisions to upgrade the system stalled, reducing chances of a speedy overhaul of the nation's creaking 911 network, Meer said.

"Entrado's decision to use HP's servers does not have any impact on IBM," IBM spokesman Jim Larkin said.