Compaq ignites Wildfire servers

More details of the hyped servers reveal strong competition for IBM, Sun and HP servers

Compaq will tomorrow unveil yet more details of its much-hyped new enterprise servers, codenamed Wildfire, as it builds up after a series of missed deadlines to its 16 May release date.

In a France conference for press and analysts, sources said Compaq will fill in the release schedule for Wildfire, which has generated excitement because it is expected to be the world’s fastest Unix system and a perfect vehicle for enterprise clustering. Despite delays caused by design glitches, Wildfire is expected to be a powerful rival to IBM’s nS80, Sun’s E10000 and Hewlett-Packard’s V2500 for a series of back-office tasks, notably high-end data warehousing. It will run Compaq’s Tru64 Unix (formerly Digital Unix) and Open VMS, with Linux to follow. Last year, Compaq and Microsoft announced that Alpha would no longer be developed for Windows NT/2000. Up to 16 nodes can be clustered under VMS or eight nodes under Tru64.

On the release day next month, Compaq is expected to offer up to 16-way configurations based on 729MHz Alpha EV67 chips. Moreover, the servers are expected to offer near-linear scalability: a 16-way server will be almost twice as fast as an eight-way system, for example. Sources said that 32-way Wildfire systems will not be available at the May launch date.

Features to improve system availability and uptime include a hot-plug capability that will let chips be added without the system first being powered down, and system partitioning support so that multiple instances of the operating system can be run and a single application failure can be isolated. IBM acquired a similar capability last year when it acquired Sequent and its Numa Intel-based server architecture.

"It’s all about manageability," said Craig Andrew, sales manager for Compelsolve, one of Compaq UK’s biggest partners. "Wildfire lets you plug in banks of processors and have partitioning so you can test out a new application on a different version of the operating system on live data, and everything is managed from the same console. For dot-coms for instance, uptime is absolutely essential and this offers them an investment protection."

Compelsolve has already taken several Wildfire-based solutions orders worth from about £750,000 upwards, Andrew said. These include one order where the buyer had previously considered upgrading an IBM mainframe, he added.

Compaq would not comment on Wildfire plans. In the past it has said that it expects over $1bn in revenues from its Wildfire business for fiscal 2000.

What do you think? Tell the Mailroom. And read what others have said.