HP wants to keep its lead in the Canadian Unix server space by adding more processing power to its entry-level machine.

The company Thursday said the L-Class series, which has since been renamed the rp5400, will use PA-8700 processors, the same chips that were first introduced on the 16-way cell-based midrange rp8400 in late September. The company said in some cases, the processors will cause a 40 per cent performance improvement in its systems.

Lorne Weiner, category manager for Unix servers at HP Canada, said the 8700 chips not only offers increased capacity in terms of floating point and integer but also has a much higher transaction processing capability. “The benefits are cross-vertical, cross-application,” he said.

HP’s main competitors in this space are Sun and IBM, both of which have recently added to their product line. Sun released the V880 based on its UltraSparc III chip on Monday, while Big Blue’s p610 made its debut last week.

Though it has since been struggling to maintain a No. 2 market share position in the United States, IDC Canada analyst Greg Ambrose said HP has typically enjoyed greater success in the Canadian Unix server market. IDC’s figures put HP as the market leader in the segment for the first half of this year, and Ambrose said the company could maintain its lead over Sun, which comes in second place, and IBM, which places third.

“It’s really a three-horse race in Canada, where you have those three players taking up 92 per cent of the Unix market,” he said. “(HP’s) Unix business probably makes up a very high portion of their overall server business in Canada — about 80 or 90 per cent.”

Weiner pointed out that changes in the e-business industry may contribute to some of the differences.

“I think the dot-com type of adoption was ramped at a much higher rate than it did in Canada,” he said. “The servers that were sold along with that for that purpose may have skewed the number. Now the economy isn’t based on that model anymore.”

Ambrose agreed. “Canada develops slower in the ISP market and because of that Sun wasn’t able to penetrate as quickly, because that was where their focus really was,” he said, adding that HP also has a strong focus on customers in the manufacturing and government sectors.

Weiner said the naming conventions of its products were changed to help its employees and channel partners better identify items in its portfolio. “Names that were associated with us — things like HP-UX, Open Mail, Kyak Workstations, Brio — the number of logos and identities goes on and on,” he said. “Our value for customers now extends beyond products, so we’re trying to speak with one voice.”

With the new naming conventions, Weiner said HP will be able to tell by the model number the server’s processor, form factor and what point in the growth of the line it occupies.

HP, which co-developed the Itanium processor line with Intel, plans to bring more of the chips into its product line. Itanium chips are in its HP 9000 line now, and will be later put into its NetServers, Weiner said.

“(Itanium’s) going to give them access to markets they couldn’t play in before, the technical computing,” Ambrose said, adding HP might also see a lower cost of manufacturing. “Once Intel is churning out these chips in volume in their later releases . . . there will be an end benefit. But the real end-benefit will come to the customer, not the vendor, in terms of lower pricing.”

The rp5400 has a starting price of $26,500.

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