HP sees HP-UX sticking around for 10 years

HP has an HP-UX road map extending to 2022, which could possibly expand to 2025

HP's Integrity NonStop X server

HP's Integrity NonStop X server

Hewlett-Packard isn't making bones about the fact that the Unix OS market is in decline, but the company believes its HP-UX has a long life ahead for customers using its fault-tolerant servers.

The company has a road map for HP-UX into 2022, which could possibly expand into 2025, said Randy Meyer, vice president and general manager of Mission Critical Systems at HP's Enterprise Server Business.

"Clearly there are installed-base customers that want continuity of HP-UX," Meyer said. "We've got a huge customer base we've got to [address]."

HP puts HP-UX on its mission-critical servers that run on Intel's Itanium processors, whose future is under question as the Unix market declines. Itanium is being taken over by high-end servers running on Intel's x86 chips, which run both Linux and Windows. Software development around Itanium has also slowed down and Intel has not shared product road maps beyond an upcoming Itanium processor code-named Kittson, which has suffered setbacks.

HP previously ran into trouble related to Unix-based operating systems relying on Itanium chips. Earlier this year, HP pumped new life into its OpenVMS OS by licensing it to an engineering firm VMS Software, which brought relief to customers who slammed an earlier HP decision to end support for it by 2020.

HP uses Itanium in Integrity mission-critical servers and is perhaps one of a few large customers remaining for Itanium chips. But the company is slowly transitioning from Itanium to x86 server chips in mission-critical servers and on Tuesday announced x86-only Integrity Superdome X and Integrity NonStop X high-end servers for customers that need highly reliable systems.

HP-UX servers will continue to exist, and remains important for customers in sectors such as telecommunication and finance, Meyer said.

"It's there for our customers that need it and want it," Meyer said.

In the mission-critical server market, customers want to make long-term commitments to system architectures, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64.

"You can't mess around with this like with low-end servers," Brookwood said.

Customers also need lead time to architectural transitions and HP took a decade to transfer HP-UX from PA-RISC to Itanium, Brookwood said.

People don't want to bring down highly reliable systems, and time is needed for software and infrastructure changes, Brookwood said.

"Another transition, another decade, that's not surprising," Brookwood said.

But the new x86-only Integrity systems are an acknowledgement that HP is reconstructing its mission-critical server portfolio as Unix servers dwindle and more customers adopt x86 servers, which can be cheaper and easier to implement in data centers.

The new Integrity NonStop X and Superdome X bring mission-critical systems to a wider market, and provide scalability for enterprise resource planning and database applications that rely on in-memory processing, Meyer said.

The NonStop lineup was previously Itanium only, and Integrity NonStop X is the first product resulting from an effort to port the server to x86 that started last year. The new server has more computing capabilities than Itanium-based NonStop servers, Meyer said.

The NonStop X initially will be broken into "systems" that can have 16 CPUs and up to 3TB of memory of RAM. Up to 255 NonStop systems can be put in a cluster, totaling 4,080 CPUs. The systems can be patched together in 36U, 42U or larger racks. The CPUs are calculated based on software licenses and service-level agreements.

The Superdome X has 16 sockets and 12TB memory, and is up to nine times faster than the 8-socket Proliant DL980 G7 server, HP said.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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