Superdome: 'Mother of all computers'?

HP admits it missed the dotcom customer boat, but expects to make waves with the 'fastest, most reliable and scalable' Unix server
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

"This is the mother of all computers." So claimed Hewlett-Packard's Duane Zitzner, president of computing systems, as he helped roll out HP's latest high-end Unix server line, the Superdome HP 9000, in New York City on Tuesday.

Zitzner -- who also called the new box as "one damn spank server," with "spank," the latest synonym for "cool" (according to The New York Times, said Zitzner) -- was on hand with many of HP's brass to unveil the new systems and related services before a standing-room only crowd at the Regent Hotel on Wall Street.

HP claimed its Superdome line, which is based on HP's PA 8600 processor line, is the fastest, most reliable and scalable Unix server, bar none. The new machines offer twice the performance of HP’s V-Class machines, according to the company. The systems feature "virtual partitioning" technology developed HP that allows customers to consolidate servers and service providers to guarantee quality-of-service levels.

The Superdome systems are Intel Itanium-ready, but HP doesn't expect to deliver Itanium-based Superdomes until the second half of 2002. The PA-RISC-based Superdomes are ready to ship, as of today. The company did not discuss pricing, other than to say it will be "utility-based," connected directly to the amount of CPU horsepower a customer uses month-to-month.

HP CEO Carly Fiorina said Superdome "raises the bar, in terms of leadership in the Unix business."

"Superdome is the industry's hottest box," said Fiorina, who emphasised not only the system's speeds and feeds, but the additional "outside the box" services that HP is providing as part of the Superdome package. Among these value-added services are dedicated, on-site HP solution managers who "are not billable until the customer signs off" on the total package.

Fiorina joked about HP's interest in acquiring the consulting arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, but didn't offer any more details about the state of the talks between HP and PwC -- talks HP confirmed yesterday. But she said that HP was increasingly moving toward more tightly integrating business-transformation services and IT infrastructure delivery.

Fiorina said that HP spent much of the last two years in conversations with its customers and partners devising the Superdome hardware and services. She said the new systems showed off how HP has begun reinventing itself, by harnessing the hardware, software and services know-how across various divisions, a strategy the company is calling "inter-engineering."

Fourteen months ago, HP was "getting killed in the dotcom space," Fiorina acknowledged, especially because its high-end boxes were not as scalable as comparable offerings from Sun Microsystems. HP claimed it already has 150 customers "in the funnel" for Superdome, with 16 of these already running Superdomes on site.

But HP is going to have to prove it can attract some new dotcom customers and not just succeed in getting its installed base to upgrade, noted Jean Bozman, a research director with International Data Corporation. And it will take more than just a statement of intended repositioning vis-à-vis Sun and IBM for HP to do so, Bozman added.

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

Editorial standards