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Pentium II low-end for Compaq servers

Until the chip scales better, Compaq will use it only in the ProSignia 200, a single-processor server for the small-business market.

Compaq (CPQ) is adopting the Pentium II for its server line but making the processor work its way up the ranks.

Compaq will for now adopt the current top-of-the-line processor from Intel (INTC) only in a new version of its ProSignia 200, a single-processor server for the small-business market.

And while Compaq will come out with more Pentium II servers in the future, the company's higher-end and multiple-processor servers will continue instead to use the Pentium Pro, said John Young, director of product marketing and business operations at Compaq's server product division.

"It's not been the processor of choice simply because it's not been [upgradeable to four processors]," said Young. "Before the end of this year, you will see other PII servers [from Compaq]."

Other NT server manufacturers continue to use the Pentium Pro in their highest-end servers because as many as four Pro processors can be strung together in one standard server. Scaling in this way improves server performance and is in demand by institutions with large-scale computing needs, such as banks performing currency exchange. Right now, only two Pentium IIs can be strung together in standard servers.

Nonetheless, companies such as Dell (DELL) and NEC Computer Systems have rolled out or announced one- and two-processor Pentium II servers to hit a wider market segment.

Unlike the other vendors, Compaq is not even using the latest version of the Pentium II, which contains Error Correcting Cache (ECC). The ProSignia 200 can only be upgraded for ECC. Intel has said several times that the reason manufacturers haven't adopted the Pentium II for servers until now was the absence of ECC.

ECC corrects errors that can occur during the transmission of data and has become a standard demand of customers that have onerous computational requirements.

The server, Young said, is the first to be made under the build-to-order strategy unveiled by Compaq earlier in the month.

The new ProSignia 200 succeeds the ProSignia, which had a 166-MHz Pentium processor. The new server contains a 233-MHz Pentium II processor with 512KB level-2 cache, 32MB of memory, and an integrated 10/100 controller. Available through the company's web of resellers and distributors, the new server will sell for approximately $2,000. Different models will also be available overseas.

"These customers are price-sensitive," Young said. "They behave almost like consumer customers. They have long purchasing cycles."