After lagging behind competitors IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems in the Unix server market for years, Compaq says it is finally making some headway.

Richard Marcello, vice-president and general manager for Compaq Computer Corp.’s high performance systems division, was in Toronto Tuesday to speak with customers at the AlphaServer Diamond Forum. He later spoke with CDN about the future of Compaq’s server products and the recent growth of its Unix markets.

Traditionally, Sun Microsystems has been top dog globally in the Unix space. In Canada, HP owns the largest share of the market. Compaq still hasn’t caught its toughest competition, but it is gaining, according to Marcello. “We’ve had six straight quarters of growth with Unix,” he said. “In general, we are the second fastest-growing Unix right now.”

Even if Compaq continues its growth vector, it may still be another few years before it surpasses its competition, and Sun may still be a speck on the horizon.

Where Compaq is more sanguine about market opportunities is with its AlphaServer products. The Houston, Tex.-based company recently introduced a new version of its EV6 chip, the EV68. “That will go into all our machines and we’ll get somewhere between 30 and 40 per cent performance improvement,” says Marcello. Another generation away is the EV7 chip, which is currently in development and should be ready for the market in about 18 months, he adds.

The largest market overall for Compaq servers, says Marcello, is by far Windows NT. The platform has had less success for AlphaServers, though, and Compaq discontinued them more than a year ago. “We weren’t making any money on it . . . we were investing about US$120 million a year,” he says.

“So we said, ‘Let’s take the money and invest more in Tru64 and Alpha and VMS and really differentiate where we already have leadership,’ instead of throwing good money after bad money. Part of the issue was that we just didn’t control the operating system.”

Marcello claims Compaq owns the No. 1 spot in Linux servers. The company is about to officially announce a new program called Tru Affinity, which, he says, will allow for a higher level of inter-operability between its Tru64 product and Linux.

From a broader strategic point of view, Compaq looks to make a bigger splash in the enterprise market. As Marcello describes it, Compaq will eventually divide its business evenly between its services, enterprise and Access Business Group (small and medium enterprises, small office/home office and consumer). ” If you look at things now, we will have to grow our enterprise business in order to do that,” observes Marcello. “There’s a lot of emphasis on growing and really taking on IBM as one of their main competitors.”

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