Monday launched the next
version of its HP-UX operating system and took a another step in what
experts say is a challenging, long-term attempt to migrate its software from
PA-RISC to Itanium architecture, which is expected to triple high-end system
performance over the next three years.
In issuing its first update to its OS in more than two years, the Palo Alto,
Calif. firm is hedging its bet that HP-UX 11i v2 will continue to be a
strong, Unix-based performer alongside Sun Microsystems’ Solaris and IBM’s
AIX products despite its transition to the newer Intel Itanium chip-based
schema. The new OS is also singificant part of HP’s broader Adaptive
Enterprise strategy, which looks to help businesses more agile in dealing
with computing demands and needs through such strategies as utility
Mike Wardley, marketing manager for HP-UX operating system, said the new OS
offers the same functionality that HP-UX provides customers of PA-RISC
processor-based systems — and then some. To make sure customers and
application vendors don’t feel as they though they are starting from scratch
and need to buy the features they are accustomed to, HP has built the new OS
with total data, source and binary compatibility with previous versions of
HP-UX 11i for Itanium and PA-RISC systems. HP-UX 11i v2 also offers source
and data compatibility with Linux IA-32 programs and binary compatibility
with Linux for Itanium processors-based programs.
HP, which Wardley said now supports around 1,000 applications on Itanium,
has been working furiously to migrate its software to support Intel’s
Itanium architecture, something rival vendors such as IBM had taken a
wait-and-see approach to before picking it up.
The news met the approval of industry analysts, such as IDC Research
Director Al Gillen.
“With the full complement of HP-UX ISV applications now available for this
new platform, HP and its partners are completing the Itanium ecosystem and
positioning its Itanium-based systems for immediate customer adoption,” said
Moving from one ingrained operating system platform to another is no easy
task, Gillen said, noting that HP has had to address “numerous compatibility
challenges.” “HP has addressed this issue nicely with HP-UX 11i v2 for
Itanium processor-based systems, which offers near functional equality and
binary compatibility to HP-UX 11i v1 for PA-RISC,” he said.
HP-UX 11i v2 parallels v1’s features, including reliability, availability
and serviceability; Internet and Web application services; directory and
security services; system management; and 64-way performance scalability.
The enhanced release also includes networking and storage solutions for
Itanium-based systems, including dynamic expansion of storage components and
extended support for Gigabit Ethernet and Gigabit Fibre.
Gillen told internetnews.com the seamless transition of the
Itanium-based HP-UX system with functional parity to PA-RISC is achievement
in itself, but he noted that the real plus is that customers will now have
the choice of using PA-RISC-based HP-UX 11i v1 or v2, based on Itanium.
These moves, Gillen said, aren’t to be taken lightly because vendors don’t
want to upset customers by forcing migration on them. He compared HP’s
gradual migration to the one IBM made in 1996 when it moved its iSeries
servers from 48-bit CISC systems to 64-bit RISC architecture.
HP is positioning HP-UX against Solaris and AIX, but Gillen said today’s
news benefits HP’s existing customers and doesn’t necessarily work to lure
new ones from alternate OS architectures. Gillen doesn’t see HP luring
customers from one OS architectures such as Solaris or AIX because it is
difficult to do.
“All Unix customers are treated with kid gloves these days,” Gillen
explained. “They have a lot of options and everybody wants them.” He said
despite some possibility of moving Unix to Microsoft environments, which is
not preferable, or even moving to Linux, which is compelling from a cost
savings standpoint, the move is a disruptive one.
“This not like leasing a car where you can trade it in,” Gillen said. “There
is a lot of application testing and regression testing that needs to be
done.” What HP has going for it, is more flexibility from a platform
perspective as customers can find a solution on an Intel architecture.
Gillen said the physical partitioning capabilities of its Superdome server
allow multiple operating systems be run in separate partitions. So, if the
machine has 16 processors, four may be portioned for HP-UX, four may be
allotted for Windows, etc.
IBM and Dell, he said, use virtual partitioning, which offers fewer choices
for what IT administrators can run on their machines.
HP has also added support for HP-UX 11i v2 by independent software vendors,
such as 724 Solutions, Active State, Ascential, Baan, Brooks Automation,
Check Point Software Technologies, Critical Path, said Gina Cassinelli
director of marketing for enterprise solutions and partners at HP.
These firms cover application development, business intelligence, databases,
EAI tools, ERP and supply chain, financial services, security,
telecommunications and Web services industries.