Hitachi PC Wades Into Domestic Server Market

The domestic PC server market this month took on a new competitor that is brandishing four-way machines and a promise of an eight-way server by year-end. The new entrant is Hitachi PC (Milpitas, Calif.,, a subsidiary of electronics giant Hitachi Ltd. (Tokyo,

While other Hitachi Ltd. subsidiaries have experience making servers in Japan and mainframes in the United States, Hitachi PC has concentrated on notebook computers. "Now that we’ve gotten our feet wet with our strategy of mobilized computing, it seemed reasonable and logical to extend our product offerings to what people connect to on the other side of that line," says Michael Krieger, Hitachi PC’s vice president of servers.

Meanwhile, Hitachi PC will work through a Hitachi mainframe subsidiary, Hitachi Data Systems, to penetrate current mainframe accounts, Krieger says.

The initial launch in October consisted of two server lines: the VisionBase 8240, low-end machines offering one- to two-processor configurations, and the VisionBase 8460, high-end machines sporting one- to three-chip configurations with the capacity to support a fourth chip.

Hitachi PC plans to roll out its eight-way VisionBase 8880R Server in December. The server will have up to eight 400-MHz Pentium II processors and 15 64-bit PCI slots and support up to 16 GB of memory. Hitachi will use its own chipset based on the Profusion eight-way architecture from Corollary Corp., a subsidiary of Intel Corp. While the Hitachi servers are tested for compatibility with Unix and NetWare environments, they are optimized for Windows NT and only the Microsoft Corp. operating system is installed on the machines.

The four-way VisionBase 8460 is aimed at servers from IBM Corp., Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. The system also uses 400 MHz Pentium II Xeon processors, each with 512 KB of second-level cache, up to 8 GB of main memory and includes six 32-bit and five 64-bit PCI slots.

Hitachi PC is positioning its low-end VisionBase 8240 two-way machine against the "white boxes" generally assembled by channels, says Krieger. The VisionBase 8240 uses the same Xeon chip as the other VisionBase machines with up to 1 GB of main memory and 4 PCI slots.

Both lines are floor-standing units with redundancy in cooling and power supply and hot-swap RAID disk storage. Krieger says the servers will also come with a Windows NT-optimized management system that provides prefailure notification for deteriorating parts and the ability to remotely reboot other computers in the system.

Analyst Rob Enderle with Giga Information Group (Cambridge, Mass.) says moving into the server realm is the right move for Hitachi PC. "If you’re going to be a company the size of Hitachi, you’ve got to be a full-service provider. Having part of that probably will knock you out of most of the large-scale businesses that Hitachi would like to participate in."

However, Enderle cautions that Hitachi PC will have a tough time breaking into the market, especially with eight-way servers. "My sense is that the customers will trust known brands. Hitachi is not a known brand for this kind of product. [The experience of other Hitachi subsidiaries] may be great, but it’s just not widely known."