HP takes NonStop route

Canadian Tandem users are welcoming with open arms the return of the high-end server technology to its roots with Hewlett-Packard Co.

HP Wednesday made its first major systems launch since completing its merger with Compaq Computer

Corp. last month. This included the NonStop S86000 high-end server as well as a midrange NonStop S76 line. NonStop is the former brand of Tandem Computers, a company formed in the early 1970s by Jimmy Treybig, an HP employee. The machines, which can cost anywhere from US$1 million and up, are renowned in the industry for handling thousands of processors and performing compute-intensive behind-the-scenes work at some of the world’s largest stock exchanges.

HP Business Critical Systems general manager Scott Stallard referred to the Treybig connection at the launch. Stallard said he and Treybig were colleagues when the latter decided to start his own shop.

“”I wish we had just gone ahead and bought them,”” he said. “”After three decades of being apart, we really view this as being a family reunion.””

So does Randall Becker, president of the Canadian Tandem User’s Group. Becker said his members were very pleased with the machines announced Wednesday, which will include an SGI MIPS R14000 microprocessor, double the cache size and four times the maximum memory of existing NonStop S-series servers. HP said the systems will offer a 90 per cent performance boost, which Becker called exceptional.

“”I think there’s a feeling of coming home,”” he said. “”That’s the sense I’m getting from the people who were around in the Tandem days. HP is a platform that represents the origins to a lot of the users, but it’s also an attitude.””

Not all Tandem users were happy when the company was bought by Compaq Computer Corp., Becker said, which imposed a sales strategy that focused on short-term closes, low prices, low margins and high sales volumes.

“”With Compaq, there was from a sales and marketing standpoint a perspective of, ‘Let’s build a company that makes consumables,'”” he said. “”That didn’t help anybody in the NonStop part of the business. When you’re selling into an enterprise and you’re selling in the US$20 million to US$30 million range, you’re not going to get a one-month turnaround.””

IDC Canada analyst Alan Freedman in Toronto agreed there may have been some initial growing pains, but he said Compaq eventually turned the situation around, to the point where NonStop machines contributed significantly to its bottom line.

“”For the first few years they tried to make it fit in the regular Compaq culture, but that may not have been appropriate, especially not in the high-end,”” he said, where users are focused on continuous availability and restore capabilities. “”Once they realized it’s a different sell, that’s when sales started to take off.””

Stallard said HP would be building the former Tandem business around the cornerstones of pervasive management, continuous and secure operations, maximum resource utilization and lasting value.

“”NonStop is an integral part of our business — not just something off on the side, but something we intend to incorporate into every possible way,”” he said.

Becker said HP has a better understanding of what an enterprise really is, and suggested that it will demonstrate some benefits that weren’t immediately apparent when it announced the Compaq deal last fall.

“”The consumers are going to notice what’s happening with Jornada and iPaq,”” he said, referring to the HP and Compaq handhelds, of which only the latter has survived. “”What they’re not going to notice is that the (Open) VMS stuff is still around, the NonStop is still around. Those were things that were seriously put at risk.””

HP said the NonStop S86000 would also include a high-speed disk drive that would boost I/O performance 25 per cent and a SQL/MX 1.5 relational database with publish/subscribe and queuing functionality.

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