Trade Resources Industry Views HP Plans to Migrate Its Mission-Critical HP Nonstop Technology

HP Plans to Migrate Its Mission-Critical HP Nonstop Technology

Systems giant Hewlett-Packard (HP) has announced plans to migrate its mission-critical HP NonStop technology to the Intel x86 server architecture, providing customers with an alternative to Intel Itanium-based systems.

At the same time - demonstrating that it is not abandoning the Itanium platform - the company has also announced new HP Integrity NonStop blade servers based on the freshly released Intel Itanium 9500-series microprocessors.

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HP claims that the shift has been led by a growing demand for high-availability computing driven by cloud and mobility, where customers want platform standardisation. According to Neil Pringle, direction for HP NonStop in EMEA, the aim is simply to provide customers with choice.

"At the moment, we deliver NonStop systems based only on the Intel Itanium family and are launching a product based on the new 9500-series, the latest Itanium chip. We will be moving the NonStop server family to the x86 architecture as well, with the intention to provide users with more choice," Pringle told Computing.

"Some customers are major 'fans' of x86; some are fans of Itanium. This way our customers get to choose which chip architecture they get to deploy NonStop on. It also enables us to build NonStop systems with 100 per cent standard components," Pringle added.

The NonStop line of high-end servers and operating system date back to the 1970s, when they were originally developed by Tandem Computers. Acquired by Compaq in 1997, which was in turn acquired by HP in 2003, the Itanium-based NonStop servers were introduced in 2005.

NonStop is intended for fault-tolerant, high-end servers and typically run in telecoms, banking, finance and any other industry in which high-availability is required.

"VocaLink, the faster payment system in the UK, was developed and deployed on the NonStop system and eight out of the top-10 banks [in the world] run on NonStop systems," said Pringle. "All of the top manufacturing companies in the world use NonStop systems for production control and most of the large telcos in the world use it too."

HP's decision to support x86 comes after it won a legal case against database vendor Oracle, which had announced plans in March 2011 to discontinue development of its database software on Itanium. Although HP won the case and Oracle pledged to continue supporting its databases on Itanium for the duration of the two companies' agreement, sales of Itanium servers nevertheless fell in the aftermath.

Intel has also not refreshed its Itanium line as energetically as it might: The 9500-series Tukwila Itanium line comes three years after the previous generation 9300 series and, instead of manufacturing the 9500-series with the company's most advanced technologies, it is sticking with the same 32-nanometre manufacturing used in the prior generation. This suggests that the chip architecture that Intel had hoped 15 years ago would lead the shift to 64-bit computing is instead being marginalised in development terms.

It was on that basis that Oracle justified its February 2011 decision to discontinue Itanium software development. "Intel management made it clear that their strategic focus is on their x86 microprocessor and that Itanium was nearing the end of its life," stated Oracle in a press release issued back then.

While HP claims that it will continue to strongly support Itanium, the porting of NonStop to x86 will provide an alternative should customers - or Intel and software developers - seek to wind down Itanium development.

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HP Ports Nonstop Technology From Itanium to X86