5 December 2002 Systems giant Hewlett-Packard (HP) will release the next version of its Alpha microprocessor next month, despite its plans to retire the product family in about 18 months time.
HP said that the Alpha EV7 will be a valuable upgrade for existing customers that need to boost their systems for high-performance technical computing applications.
But the company reiterated its plans to wind down the Alpha processor family and eventually migrate all of its high-end servers onto Intel’s 64-bit line of Itanium processors. HP inherited the Alpha technology after it acquired Compaq Computer, but it also plans to phase out its own PA-RISC processors.
As a result of this, Alpha EV7 is unlikely to attract many new enterprise customers, although HP claims it will also provide higher bandwidth and lower performance latency than earlier versions. According to analysts, Alpha EV7 should provide a performance improvement of between 35% and 55% compared to existing HP Alpha Server machines.
However, only about 5% of Unix servers run on Alpha, although the processor family enjoys a strong reputation as a reliable platform for high-end computing tasks.
HP also divulged further information about its plans to retire the Alpha family. In 12 months time, HP will release the EV7-9, which should provide further performance improvements. After this, in mid-2004, the company will stop developing new versions of Alpha, although it will continue to provide bug fixes and upgrade operating systems that run on Alpha.
Intel’s Itanium promises to deliver similar high-end performance capabilities at a much lower cost compared to the proprietary microprocessors that have traditionally powered high-end Unix servers. At the same time, Itanium is expected to drive commoditisation of the mid-range and high-end server market, to the chagrin of many vendors.
However, Intel has yet to prove that Itanium can deliver the performance and reliability customer require in these sectors.