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HP servers keep a foot in AOL's door

Sun Microsystems may have won a tight partnership with America Online, but news from Hewlett-Packard shows the relationship is by no means exclusive.

Sun Microsystems may have won a tight partnership with America Online, but news from Hewlett-Packard shows the relationship is by no means exclusive.

AOL is using HP's top-end Superdome servers as well as several of the company's lower-end L-class and midrange N-class Unix servers. And under a multimillion-dollar deal, HP will advertise its products on several AOL properties, including Netscape, Spinner.com and ICQ.

But Sun, whose strength in Unix servers has made it the server company to beat, remains a major partner at AOL, the Internet unit of AOL Time Warner.

Sun gained a major foothold at AOL when AOL acquired Netscape Communications in 1998. As part of that deal, AOL agreed to buy $500 million worth of Sun products and services, and Sun got rights to sell Netscape server software--now under the iPlanet brand name. In January, Sun said AOL had agreed to buy another $400 million worth of products and services.

Superdome, though not selling as well as HP had hoped, has snagged several corporate accounts. Customers include Amazon.com, American Airlines, AT&T Broadband, BMW, Cisco Systems, Debis IT Services, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, Liz Claiborne, Mobilkom Austria, Nestle, Nextel, SAP, the U.S. Navy and Verizon.

AOL also uses high-end Compaq servers for its most critical jobs: handling e-mail and authenticating users as they sign on. For these tasks, AOL relies on Compaq's Tandem computers.