Sun Sees Possible Clouds On HP’s N-Class Horizon

Ken Deats, Associate Editor

HP’s competitor and the target of most of its performance jibes and asides that came out of the N-Class server announcement, Sun Microsystems, not surprisingly had some cautionary comments to make about the server and strategy HP is billing as “The Best On the Planet.”

“It made a good impression,” says David Yen, vice president and general manager of Sun’s Enterprise Server Products. “But everybody knows that technology companies play benchmark leapfrog and right now, HP is presenting the hot box.”

But, he senses confusion among HP’s installed user base as it plans for a possible migration from PA-RISC to IA-64 and HP-UX to Windows NT and says the N-Class “doesn’t eliminate that black cloud over their heads.”

Yen ticks off a litany of questions and concerns he says those users face:
  • Intel’s Merced performance numbers are coming down from their original expectations and the delivery has slipped considerably. “How high will Merced’s performance really be?”
  • In spite of HP’s processor roadmap, will the N-Class server reduce HP’s R&D investment in PA-RISC. “To maintain investment in both OSes and processors is very expensive.”
  • It’s not clear that all HP-UX applications will migrate smoothly to a Windows NT environment. “Home grown applications will be a big issue.”
  • ISVs have limited resources and a very short development cycle. “How long is the expected life of HP-UX? Motivation [to develop under HP-UX] will be a big factor for ISVs.”
  • While the existing installed base should stick with HP as its supplier, jumping in the middle of the migration path may “make new customers wait to decide on what the correct platform may be for them.”
As to those screaming benchmarks highlighted by Lew Platt and a bevy of HP executives, Yen says, yes they are legitimate, and yes, they compared apples to apples, but adds that they should not be seen as anymore than a “snapshot in time – taken at much different points.” He explained that several of Sun’s marks mentioned in HP’s comparisons were close to one year old and some of the scores touted by HP used benchmarks Sun had never tested with.

In any case, he adds that buying on benchmarks is, “penny wise and pound foolish. In the server space, benchmarks are not the big issue.”