Rivals of HP court Tru64 users

Sun and IBM are eager to attract HP users forced to migrate to different systems

The IT staff at Best Western International Inc. last week wheeled an Alpha server that had run the venerable Tru64 Unix operating system into a conference room. Over a chicken parmigiana lunch, they bade it goodbye.

Jerry Skaare, director of architecture at the Phoenix-based hotel chain, said the Alpha "funeral," as he called it, marked the company's transition to Hewlett-Packard Co.'s HP-UX version of Unix running on its Superdome server.

Every user of the Tru64 Unix operating system and Alpha chips will eventually have to migrate, since HP is phasing them out in favor of HP-UX and Intel Corp.'s Itanium processor. And the company's rivals see that as an open door.

Sun Microsystems Inc. last week detailed a plan, called "HP Away," to woo HP users to its Solaris-on-Sparc platform. Larry Singer, Sun's chief competitive officer, said he believes that many of the Alpha and Tru64 users will "feel abandoned" and dissatisfied with the option of ultimately moving to Itanium.

Sun is focusing on growing revenue, said Singer, and HP "just kind of left the door wide open."

IBM is also keen to attract some of these users. The company doesn't have a specific incentive program unique to Alpha and Tru64 users, but it does have programs that would help them, such as server consolidation studies, said Jeff Benck, director of product marketing at IBM's Systems Group.

One goal of the HP competitors will be to convince Alpha and Tru64 users that IBM's AIX version of Unix and Sun's Solaris are an easier transition than HP-UX.

Dan Marmion, CIO at hardware maker New Era Cap Co. in Derby, N.Y., runs Alpha and Tru64 and said he looked at converting to Sun two years ago. Although the hardware was less expensive, the conversion costs were high.

Marmion said he would be willing to hear Sun's new pitch, although so far he's comfortable with HP's migration strategy to move Tru64 users to HP-UX, even though he may lose some features.

Some of the consultants Best Western brought in to evaluate its options were from IBM, and they said the company wouldn't have any problems moving its Oracle applications to any platform, including IBM.

Skaare said he liked the IBM pSeries servers, but "HP was able to bring together the best overall deal for us." That package provided professional services and ongoing maintenance and still met the hotel's budget goals, he said.

Skaare said he is seeing a lot of interest from vendors in customers like himself. "If there isn't already a battle out there to win those people, there should be," he said.

Jim Becker, a board member of the Chicago-based HP user group Encompass and lead systems engineer at Washington think tank the Urban Institute and an Alpha and OpenVMS user, said he sees no reason yet to get off that platform.

"Do I think this is a great time to jump to the other platforms? I wouldn't say so yet," he said. "I don't foresee Itanium as an also-ran platform."

HP is planning Alpha upgrades through 2005. It also has plans for two more releases of Tru64 and will support it through 2011.

In response to Sun's program, HP officials said the battle for customers cuts two ways. The company has comprehensive and coordinated companywide programs "to aggressively pursue and migrate customers from Sun and IBM systems to HP systems," said Mark Hudson, HP's vice president of marketing for enterprise storage and servers.

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Sun's 'HP Away'

Sun has detailed an incentive plan for Alpha and Tru64 users. Among the terms:

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No-risk, two-week assessment service for migrating from Tru64 to Solaris.

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Deferred payment for the entire migration, until completion, not to exceed 90 days.

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Financing and trade-in offers.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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