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HP Without Itanium: A Three-Pronged Strategy

Regardless of how its trial against Oracle goes, there will be no new versions of Oracle software on Itanium. Here's how HP might turn the page.
The Voyager project is, in my mind, the least interesting of the three projects. The first instantiation of Voyager are the Proliant Gen8 servers HP released earlier this year. The notion is to make servers smarter so that they're easier to manage--an approach that was disproven more than a decade ago by Compaq, which nearly ruined itself by throwing lots of stuff into the server that did nothing for the system's actual performance.

HP says the Proliants can monitor up to 1,600 system parameters so that system admins will know about potential failures long before they occur. The problem is that almost no one wants to pay for much "added value." After all, the system is still running the same Xeon with the same motherboard, bus, memory, and disk subsystems as everyone else. The value add comes from Intel, Microsoft, and the Linux community. Most buyers would prefer that HP just slap in a power supply, add sheet metal, and call it a day. Buyers of these systems are sensitive to price, so there's only so much innovating HP can do without pricing itself out of competition. This project also doesn't do much for BCS customers.

That leaves us with Odyssey, which is aimed directly at BCS customers. The goal for Odyssey is provide a path for NonStop, OpenVMS, and HP-UX customers to Windows and Linux running on high-end HP systems such as the Superdome2 and HP BladeSystem C. As part of Odyssey, HP says it will continue to release new versions of NonStop, OpenVMS, and HP-UX on these systems, but that's predicated on the availability of Itanium chips. Given all that's gone on, we expect that the two versions of Itanium now under development will be the last. At least in the long run (past 2016), the Windows and Linux components of Odyssey will be about all that matters.

HP's goal for Windows and Linux is to beef them up with some of the features that its users like best on HP-UX and NonStop. In its press release on Odyssey, HP talks about supporting nPars (its proprietary virtualization system) and a number of diagnostic systems and fault tolerant features, a bit like the Voyager project on steroids but with a more receptive audience.

While the audience may listen, they'll also shop around. We suspect that HP will have a hard time holding on to this high-margin business no matter what it does.

At this year's InformationWeek 500 Conference C-level execs will gather to discuss how they're rewriting the old IT rulebook and accelerating business execution. At the St. Regis Monarch Beach, Dana Point, Calif., Sept. 9-11.