HP Integrity Refresh Offers 3x Performance, 33% Lower TCO

Despite the troubled history of the Itanium CPU, the continuing erosion of the Unix OS market it serves, and the emergence of Intel’s Xeon x86-based CPU as an attractive alternative to RISC processors, HP remains committed to its Integrity platform, launching a new family of systems with 3x the performance, 21% less energy and 33% lower TCO compared to the current lineup. This is a refresh of the company’s entire Integrity line of servers targeted at a mission-critical-workload market valued at $11 billion a year, said Kate O’Neill, Director, Global Product Marketing and Programs, Business Critical Systems, HP.

“What we’re offering our customers is a mission-critical roadmap that offers them both investment protection and a migration path. So our strategy is to offer our customers choice with investment protection.”

It has not been smooth sailing for HP’s Itanium business. The first 64-bit chip shipped in 2001, years after originally planned. Fast-forward and Oracle tried – unsuccessfully – to back away from its commitment to develop Itanium versions of its software, while other vendors like Microsoft have dropped their support. As part of the bitter Oracle court battle, it was revealed that HP has so far paid Intel $690 million to keep Itanium alive. According to documents, HP agreed to pay Intel $440 million dollars between 2009 and 2014 to keep producing the Itanium chips, and then paid another $250 million to extend the deal to 2017.

While the overall server market saw slightly higher shipments and slightly lower revenue in Q2, RISC/Itanium Unix servers continued to fall – a 14.9% decline in shipments and a 17.9% drop in vendor revenue compared to the same quarter last year, said Gartner. As the shipment leader, HP saw a 5.6% drop, split between its x86 and Itanium lines.

IDC reported that Unix servers experienced a 20.3% revenue decline year-over-year to $2.3 billion, but that IBM only saw a 10% decline and gained 6.1% market share. For the fourth consecutive quarter non-x86 servers – i.e. RISC/Itanium-based – declined 19.4% to $3.9 billion.

It’s easy to understand HP’s on-going interest in its Integrity line – in addition to the obvious hardware sales, Integrity drives a lot of service and support revenue, said Nathan Brookwood, Research Fellow, Insight 64. “Integrity customers depend on HP-UX, OpenVMS and NonStop operating systems, and are more-or-less locked into these environments. These customers have huge investments in applications running on these software environments, and will buy new hardware to run those apps as long as HP wants to deliver it. Many of these customers started with HP 9000s, Tandem or DEC Vaxs decades ago, and have moved through a variety of upgrades to the current Itanium-based implementations. If they haven’t left yet, they’re not going anywhere unless forced to do so.”

To date, HP has chosen not to offer any of its proprietary OS’s on “industry standard” (i.e., x86)-based systems, so customers who want to use HP Proliant servers face a huge software challenge, he said. “What’s more, if HP were to wind down Integrity, those customers might migrate just as easily to servers from IBM, Oracle or Dell, putting all that hardware and service revenue at risk.”

Brookwood said this customer “clinginess” to proprietary high-end systems is not unique to HP. “Unisys continues to offer contemporary versions of its ancient Univac 2200 and Burroughs MCP mainframes, under the ClearPath Liibra and Dorado brands, because the customers it acquired with those systems in the 1970’s and 1980’s find it easier to pay somewhat higher prices for hardware than to convert the massive applications they built back when. There’s a similar story with users of the old GE/Honeywell GCOS OS, now offered by NEC and Bull.”

However, while these environments will continue to retain most of their existing customers, Brookwood said new customers (or existing customers with new applications) tend to use more industry standard approaches – typically Linux on x86, or “cloud” approaches, rather than add to the installed proprietary hardware base. “This is why you see the RISC/Unix world continuing to slowly erode, but it’s a process that will go on for decades, as long as the current suppliers are willing to offer new configurations that are only slightly more expensive than the more generic alternatives.”

Combining a new Intel Itanium processor, the 9500 series, with HP enhancements, the new servers include Superdome 2 with new blades, three Integrity server blades for the BladeSystem c-Class enclosure, and an Integrity entry-level, Entergy Star model targeted at branch offices and growing businesses. O’Neill said one of the new features that should draw strong interest is the addition of the industry’s only electrically isolated hard-partitioning capabilities to the Integrity line, something that was only available on Superdome.

In addition, HP-UX, the company’s Unix OS, offers enhanced security and management to speed threat detection and optimize resource utilization. There are also new advisory workshop services, financing programs and cost assessment tools to assist clients in optimizing their mission-critical environment. The new Integrity systems, including the Superdome 2 server blades, will be available worldwide beginning next month at a starting price of $6,490 per blade.

As for the future, O’Neill said HP will continue to upgrade UX, which is currently on a two-release-a-year schedule. Cloud and OpenVMS support will also play a greater role, and there are more Itanium CPUs in the works.

Author: Steve Wexler

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