Serving Up Mainframes

"We are going to take HP-UX and make it look like MVS"-- Nick Earle
Vice-President and Director
Enterprise Computing Solutions Organization

When HP's chief marketing guru tells you that HP is going to take HP-UX and make itlook like MVS you have to sit up and take notice. Also, if you've been paying attention,the "D-word" ­ data center ­ has appeared in much of HP's marketing lately.So, even if you're a loyal HP shop, you also have to ask, "Can HP with the HP 9000 beas successful as IBM and MVS in the data center?"

On paper, the HP 9000's vital statistics look pretty darn good. The HP 9000 productline (see page 34) certainly covers a wide range, as HP advertises scalability,availability and reliability. At the high-end, HP's V-class servers ­ the V2200 and V2500­ have already made inroads into the data centers of the Global 1000. "The V2500 ismeeting its commitment to double the high-end performance every year or so," saysJames Rinaldi, senior vice president of IR Operations & Services for MarriottInternational, Inc. Since the V-class was first launched (in May 1997), HP claims morethan 1,500 V-class systems have been shipped to customers. Jonathan Eunice, IT analyst atIlluminata, Inc. (Nashua, N.H.) says that the V2500, announced in December 1998, isputting HP's "big enterprise servers on a positive roll."


But is this a case of the camel's nose under the data center tent? Or just a fewover-advertised exceptions? According to at least one industry survey, the HP 9000 serverscontinue to be the mainframe off-load platform of choice. And at the end of the day, HPclaims 5,000 mainframe alternative installations. Skeptics will scoff, but there's growingevidence that HP is right on ... well, the nose.

At Barber-Colman (Rockfield, Ill.), a subsidiary of environmental control manufacturerSiebe Environmental Controls, a 4-way HP 9000 T500 (running HP's Allbase/SQL) replaced aUnisys A-class system. Tom Crowley, Barber-Colman's CIO also uses a variety of other HPservers including HP's midrange K-class servers. "We are close to having all HPhardware and operating systems." And Bob Warner, manager of Retail InformationSystems at Bridgestone, Firestone, Inc. (Nashville, Tenn.), says that, "For the lastfive years, we have been very pleased with our HP 9000 Enterprise Business Servers."

At Cisco Systems (San Jose, Calif.), HP K-class servers handle all Web user traffic foran Arriba ORMS application while acting as a backend Oracle ERP database. "With over50 concurrent users, the load on [the] K-class server is negligible," says RobParrott, manager of core technology systems at Cisco. "Over time, we have thecapability to add CPU and memory to support more than 1,000 concurrent users, maintainingthe same great performance."

Other companies using a variety of HP servers include:

  • Alliant Food Service, Inc. (Deerfield, Ill.), a $5 billion broadline food distributor uses HP's T500 server for data warehousing.
  • DHL Worldwide Express (Redwood City, Calif.), the 24x7 delivery service uses HP T- and K-class servers for its global tracking application.
  • Applied Extrusion Technologies, Inc. (AET; Peabody, Mass.) financials and ERP applications are run on HP 3000 systems, while on the shop floor a data capture and product tracking application, developed in-house, is also centralized and runs on HP 9000 computers. HP NetServers are also used as departmental servers.
  • The Keebler Company (Elmhurst, Ill.) uses a variety of HP servers to run SAP R/3 in a supply chain application.
  • Sara Lee Hosiery (Winston, N.C.) has a T-class running SAP R/3 on top of an Oracle database for data warehousing.


"The most damning theory is that [HP] as an organization simply doesn't have the genes for rapid assimilation and adaptation. It is collaborative and distributed, consensus-driven and quality-driven, stable and prestigious." So says Illuminata analyst, Jonathon Eunice's in report "Lew's Platter Shatters."

"I've been a skeptic for the past four years or so," says Eunice. "HP was incredibly complacent and self-satisfied. They missed on the Internet and NT. They should have asked 'Why is Dell growing so fast? Why are our competitors faster to the e-business mark?'" Now, with a flurry of HP announcements and initiatives announced the past few months, Eunice sees HP showing the ability to re-trench and re-tool and he has changed his tune. Besides being among the analysts feeling confident about HP's new servers, Eunice's optimism is inspired by other areas in which HP has been working:


It's no secret that HP wants to take on EMC as leader in the enterprise storage market and Eunice characterizes its recent acquisition of Transoft Networks (Santa Clara, Calif.) as "a brilliant asset." Transoft has long been a leading provider of Fibre Channel SANs for Widows NT and UNIX clustered servers and workstations. "They're the smartest guys about SANs I've met."


Eunice is enthusiastic about new financing options at HP as well. "They're changing the mode in the ways people pay -- a utility computing model. They're not just selling gears and boxes as a capital investment. It's more like a utility bill where you're billed on a per usage basis."


Eunice says to look at HP's recently announced collaborations with proven industry leaders such as BEA and BroadVision to prove its new commitments to moving to the forefront of Internet-enabled computing. "Don't be blinded by the [E-services] marketing architecture. Look at [HP's] implementation."

"Awesomely good" is how Eunice describes what he's been hearing from Palo Alto since his report first appeared. "They've admitted their mistakes and they're moving fast again."

-- Ken Deats, Associate Editor


Over the past year, according to an Aberdeen Group (Boston, Mass.) report, "HP hascreated a very strong new value proposition for enterprise customers -- the V-[class] torun the data center, and compatible N-[class] to run departmental applications." TheHP 9000 N-class systems, introduced in mid-April 1999 (and generally available in May) arethe newest and most important servers in the HP 9000 pantheon.

According to Aberdeen's analysis, the V- (replacing the T-class) and the N-classplatforms represent not only the highest performance in its class, but the beginning of anew product generation. And when combined with HP-UX and compatible middleware, "itcan be considered the industry's most highly-available, flexible, scalable and manageableinfrastructure for IS professionals to deploy, operate, maintain and upgrade applications.However, the Aberdeen report also notes that the N-class was introduced "one to twoquarters later than many users had wished."

"The K-class server was getting long in the tooth" says Illuminata's Eunice.By mid-2000, says the META Group, the N-class will replace the aging K-class servers,while partially overlapping high-end V-class servers in performance." For example,the two new N-class systems can use up to eight 360MHz or 440MHz PA-8500s (in a singlerack), HP's latest generation RISC CPU. And they are the first HP servers to beupgradeable (in-chassis) to Intel's IA-64 CPU.

According to HP's plan, users will be able to remove the PA-RISC CPU board as well asthe associated bus converter and "simply" plug in the Intel IA-64 CPUs. But HPis still also planning PA-RISC upgrades for the N-class. Therefore, users can expect theN-class to be around the data center for some time.

The N-class is a particularly significant box because it's a "strong indicator offuture technology and product directions for HP," says Christopher G. Willard of IDC.The N-class, notes Eunice, "is more about I/O and moving data around -- like amainframe."

With four times the price/performance (vs. the K-class), the N-class resets theperformance bar. And IT managers may want to note that other than price cuts, META Groupanalysts expect no competitive responses from Compaq, IBM or Sun until the first half ofthe Year 2000. META analysts also expect HP to announce a new high-end hybrid (code named"Superdome") to supersede the V-class. However, in the meantime, the META reportconcludes that "HP's N-Class servers offer users strong performance and P/P boostsand should enable HP to gain new account market share."

Unlike other HP 9000 servers, where only the latest version of HP-UX has been bundled,a user will find HP's SecureWeb Console software, which provides a multi-platformWeb-based (Explorer or Navigator) administration console; Ignite/UX (formerly a $595 HP-UXadd-on) that allows users to create a single system image and replicate it simultaneouslyon any number of HP 9000 servers; and WebQoS 2.0, HP's software for prioritizing accessover the Web (see "It's The Server, Stupid" in the May issue of HPProfessional).

All things considered, there are still obstacles that may impede HP's turnaround, warnsEunice. HP remains very channel focused as compared to Dell and its build-to-orderphilosophy. "Dell's build-to-order is a superior business model and businessproposition with its customizability where, if you're Alcoa or GM, you buy just the rightsoftware for Alcoa or GM," says Eunice.

And Eunice feels that HP has to learn to command more of a presence in ISPs similar toSun and Compaq. Nevertheless, HP is "orders of magnitude better in the last six oreight months," he says. "They're much more humble now. And they're well alignedwith what they need to do. They just need the execution."


In the early 1980's, the founders of Stratus Computer, Inc. (Maynard, Mass.) had an idea: a system that would offer the fault-tolerance of Tandem computers without its closed architecture. "Tandem's fault-tolerant computers required a proprietary operating system and the fault-tolerance [components] were built-in to the operating system," says Steve Kiely, the president and CEO of Stratus.

A better design was to incorporate the fault-tolerant design into the hardware with minimum influence from the operating system. "That allows [for] support [of the] applications where any outage at all is unacceptable, or where it does not lend itself well to clustering." In 1992, Stratus chose HP's PA-RISC architecture for its Continuum series. After introducing the first product in 1994, Stratus signed a handshake agreement with HP to host HP-UX as a 100% binary compatible OS for Continuum servers in 1995. "We've had zero defects on compatibility," says Kiely.

What started out as a licensing deal for the processor and extended to the operating system, has evolved into a joint marketing relationship. "We saw interest from HP sales representatives to use Stratus technology where it fit" better than HP's, says Kiely. He points to the Continuum server installed in the Paris Bourse. The first joint sale with HP, the deal was won based on combining the continuous availability provided by Stratus with the openness of the HP 9000 platform. The relationship means that Stratus will keep up with the PA-RISC roadmap (Kiely says that the Continuum is generally four to six months behind HP's 9000 series in implementing new CPUs ) and working on enhancements to HP-UX.

Stratus still markets and develops VOS, Stratus' original OS, which lent HP-UX some of its fault tolerant principles in the port to Continuum. But, Kiely explains, "We have a high level of loyalty in our VOS base; but in general, we're marketing HP-UX to our new customers." Now Stratus is a strategic partner in HP's Mission-Critical Computing Program that guarantees a continued alliance in technology, trademark licensing, channel access for customers and after-sale service. "HP proposes Stratus as an element of a total solution," says Kiely. HP and Stratus are also working on more co-marketing strategies.

In 1998, Stratus was bought by Ascend Communications, which was primarily interested in the telecomm business side of the firm. Earlier this year, Ascend cut the computer division loose with the help of venture capitalists. "The intent," says Kiely, "is to take the company public in two to three years." Being cut adrift from Ascend has brought control. "We're free to make investments based on the long run without focusing on quarterly returns. We can also spend more funds on new product marketing than a public company might."

Stratus' Continuum Servers
Model Processors HP-UX Supported Base Price*
412 96 MHz PA-RISC 7100(1) 10.2 + 11.0 $65,750
418 180MHz PA-RISC 8000(1) 10.2 + 11.0 $140,500
428 180MHz PA-RISC 8000(2) 10.2 + 11.0 $240,500
618 180MHz PA-RISC 8000(1) 11.0 $274,000
628 180MHz PA-RISC 8000(2) 11.0 $424,000
1218 180MHz PA-RISC 8000(1) 11.0 $499,000
1228 180MHz PA-RISC 8000(2) 11.0 $649,000
* Reflects only basic server configuration