A Conservative Approach To Chips - InformationWeek

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6/5/2003
04:16 PM
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A Conservative Approach To Chips

Businesses are more interested in utilization and stability than buying the latest and fastest

Microprocessor advances in the first half of 2003 have laid out a road map for the future of enterprise computing. The launch of Intel's Centrino package of mobile processor, chipset, and network connectivity makes wireless computing a viable option for more businesses. And the emergence of 64-bit computing on commodity x86-based servers promises years of faster, more-powerful servers and desktops.

But neither development figures to grab a significant portion of the IT budget at many companies in the near future. In the short term, most business-technology managers are focused on increasing the utilization of 32-bit servers and achieving platform stability for their PCs.

The concept of platform stability is a big one, says Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at consulting firm Insight64. Computer makers "keep throwing users excuses to buy new machines," he says. "But so far, most of those excuses have fallen on deaf ears."

For most companies, a processor is only as good as the applications it runs. The J.R. Simplot Co., a produce provider, has 200 Intel-based Hewlett-Packard ProLiant servers in its main data center, along with 15 HP Alpha servers that will be replaced soon. Instead of following HP's road map and moving to 64-bit Itanium servers, Simplot will replace the enterprise resource planning software running on the Alphas with J.D. Edwards & Co.'s software running on IBM iSeries servers.

"J.D. Edwards is the package we wanted, and it runs well on the iSeries," says Tony Adams, a Simplot technology analyst. If HP were to offer a server that could guarantee the right level of J.D. Edwards' performance, Adams says he would consider it.

On the desktop, most users have more than enough power to run their day-to-day applications, Brookwood says. Midsize and large companies deploying large numbers of PCs face the more immediate challenge of managing their desktops and laptops.

"Support costs are one of the reasons large organizations tend to resist making PC changes," Brookwood says. It may cost less than $1,000 to buy a desktop, but it could cost several thousand dollars to ensure that the PC runs the user's applications properly, he adds.

One way HP accommodates the PC market's need for stability is to include Nvidia Corp.'s unified driver architecture along with Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s Athlon XP processors in the D325 desktops introduced last week. The unified driver architecture allows companies using HP D315 desktops, the D325's predecessor, to install a new PC without changing their corporate software image. Such an image typically includes the operating system, desktop applications, and back-end server connectivity software.

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