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Shopping for 64-bit solutions

Here's a listing of various solutions available in the 64-bit computing space. by Brian Pereira

As we've said before, 64-bit solutions have been available from vendors like Sun, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard who offer servers with RISC processors and their own flavors of Unix. Now that Intel and Microsoft have stepped on to the 64-bit platform, many ISVs and server vendors will join them this year. In fact, it is already beginning to happen. Even AMD, Intel's arch-rival on the 32-bit platform, is planning a foray into the 64-bit space with its Hammer processor.

Sun Microsystems
Sun Microsystems is perhaps the only RISC server vendor holding out and refuses to go with IA-64. It offers only 64-bit solutions. Anil Valluri, Director-Systems Engineering, Sun Microsystems India, says customers have benefited from this single-track strategy by keeping up with the technology curve while not throwing away their software investments. "By controlling its own architecture from a processor, server architecture and the Solaris operating system, Sun is able to offer a very well integrated, tested and optimized high-performance platform. Sun's business model also ensures that we do not make revenues out of chip sales, but by selling end-to-end solutions."

Sun's servers are powered by its own UltraSparc processor (now in the third generation), and run its Solaris operating system (now in its 9th version). Sun offers a range of servers (entry-level, midrange and high-end) in addition to server appliances and Internet/carrier-grade servers.

IBM offers a comprehensive lineup of servers for various business and scientific applications. The company is known for its mainframe expertise and it is now putting this technology into its enterprise servers. IBM's entry-level servers (the Intel-based xSeries) come with a choice of operating systems (Windows, Linux, Novell, etc). IBM also offers a range of Unix servers (pSeries) and high-end mainframe class servers (zSeries). In addition, it also offers Cluster servers (iSeries) and servers for Integrated Applications. IBM develops its own flavor of Unix and the latest version is AIX 5L. It also has other operating systems like z/OS, z/VM, OS/2 Warp, VSE/ESA, VM/ESA. IBM servers are powered by its POWER series chips, or Intel Pentium/Xeon processors.

The Alpha servers (originally developed by Digital Equipment), are perhaps the most powerful 64-bit systems in the world, and have been deployed in Indian enterprises. Though Compaq has Alpha, it has strategically decided to OEM Itanium servers. The Compaq ProLiant DL590/64 is Compaq's first Itanium server. Apart from Proliant and Alpha servers Compaq also sells fault tolerant servers aimed at mission-critical computing (the Nonstop Himalaya range).

The company is actively promoting the 64-bit platform in India by working closely with ISVs, informs Pallab Talukdar-Director, Enterprise Products, Compaq India. "Compaq shares a strong technology and business relationship with ISVs and is actively involved with ISV partners to enable porting of their 32-bit applications to the 64-bit platform. This will go a long way in bringing the best of 64-bit computing to Indian enterprises."

Like IBM, HP too offers a comprehensive lineup of 64-bit solutions. Its 64-bit servers are powered either by the HP PA-RISC processors or Intel Itanium chips. The latest version of its 64-bit operating system is HP-UX 11i.

HP offers Itanium servers (rx series) with a choice of operating systems: HP-UX, Linux or 64-bit Windows. The full range of HP servers is categorized as rack-optimized, blade, carrier-optimized, tower, super-scalable servers, and server appliances.

"We are extending the 64-bit computing advantages to the SMB marketplace with our Itanium offerings," says Kamal Dutta, Country Business Manager-Unix Servers and Solutions, Hewlett-Packard India. "Our strategy is to offer best of class technology to the users. We are of the opinion that one size and one functionality does not fit all, and users will use the best of class servers and operating environment, which best suits their needs."

Local OEMs
HCL Infosystems was the first OEM in the country to offer an Itanium server (the Infinity Silver Line Radium server). Local OEMs like Wipro and others are also expected to offer Itanium systems soon.

The chip giant manufactures Itanium chips, chipsets and corresponding motherboards which it sells to OEMs. Intel also works closely with ISVs and OEMs.

Commenting on a strategy for promoting IA-64 in India, Narendra Bhandari, Intel APAC Regional Manager-Strategic Relations, Internet Solutions Group, says Intel has a comprehensive strategy that covers developers, ISVs, hardware vendors and end customers. "We are working with leading OEMs to enable them on the Enterprise class features on the platform. Software vendors and developers are trained at forums with classroom and hands-on training for them to exploit the features of EPIC technologies."

Bhandari says there is an excellent service revenue opportunity for the software industry to migrate customers from old proprietary infrastructure to a "volume platform" with a variety of choices for OS and vendors. "We have provided seed systems to key software development organizations for their testing, development and evaluation at various organizations over the past two years," he says.

If Intel has entered the 64-bit space then AMD cannot be far behind. The enterprise server market is an important focus area for AMD and it has plans to grow its market share in this segment.

Sanjeev Keskar, Country Manager, AMD Far East Limited, says AMD has a product road map leading to the 64-bit Hammer family of processors. "Hammer is expected to be launched sometime this year and the chip will have the ability to run both 32-bit and 64-bit software applications allowing enterprise customers to migrate at their own pace."

Keskar says AMD is working with local OEMs to create a mind share for the AMD brand among enterprises and in the government sector, to educate them on "AMD's superior performance and value proposition."

Microsoft launched 64-bit versions of Windows XP on October 25th, 2001. It has both a server and a workstation offering. The workstation offering is called Windows XP 64-bit edition and the server side offering is called Microsoft Windows Advanced Server Limited Edition.

"We see continued interest in 64-bit computing being driven by enterprise demand," says Karthik Padmanabhan, Marketing Manager, Microsoft Corporation India. "We will work with the industry and ISVs to make best of breed applications available on our 64-bit platform."

Red Hat
Linux, the operating system that created waves in the corporate space, may do so once more, this time with Itanium. Red Hat Linux 7.2 has been developed especially for the Itanium processor. According to the company, this release of Red Hat Linux is equally suited to porting 32-bit Unix applications to Itanium-based systems, as well as developing new applications for IA-64.

Says Javed Tapia, Director, Red Hat India, "Our existing enterprise corporate customers are keen to evaluate the IA-64 technology and the migration path for their mission critical database/ERP applications. We are working out a beta program for our existing customers for IA-64 migration."

Business Applications
It's not just server hardware and operating system that make a system. The applications are equally important. On the 64-bit platform, businesses are using applications for ERP, business intelligence, SCM, CRM, data warehousing/data mining etc. Legacy applications that handle large volumes of transactions are also running on the 64-bit platform in large enterprises.

Brian Pereira can be reached at

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