Win2k Datacenter depends on Unisys at the high end

SAN FRANCISCO - If the Windows 2000 Datacenter Server operating system that Microsoft Corp. formally announced here yesterday is to leap into the highest reaches of corporate data centers, it will be Unisys Corp. - not Microsoft itself - that will be jumping many of the hurdles facing the new software.

The Blue Bell, Pa.-based computer maker's ES7000 server is the only system currently available that's ready to take advantage of the 32-processor scalability built into Windows 2000 Datacenter. Other hardware vendors that are backing the high-end operating system, such as IBM, Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co., sell servers with only eight Intel Corp. processors at this point.

But Unisys, which now generates about 70% of its revenue from services, could have trouble "getting the mind share of CIOs" after doing a poor job of selling machines beyond its installed base in recent years, said Jim Cassell, an analyst at Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn. Unisys will need help from other vendors to get widespread attention from information technology executives for the ES7000, Cassell added.

For example, HP and Unisys yesterday announced as part of Microsoft's Enterprise 2000 Launch event that HP will join Compaq and Fujitsu Ltd.'s U.K.-based ICL subsidiary as ES7000 resellers.

Peter Samson, a Unisys vice president, acknowledged that the company has been focusing mainly on its installed base of computer users. But being the only 32-way game in town should be a boost for the company, Samson added, claiming that ES7000 orders have already increased 120% in the third quarter compared with the full first half of the year.

One new ES7000 user is WorldTravel Partners LLC, a $3.5 billion corporate travel service in Atlanta. The company has built an internal data warehouse on one of the Unisys machines running Windows 2000 Advanced Server and Microsoft's SQL Server 7 database, and Lloyd Marino, WorldTravel's vice president of IT, said he's ready to upgrade to the Windows 2000 Datacenter operating system and a companion SQL Server 2000 release.

Marino said he's pleased with the Unisys server's performance and especially with its reliability and scalability. "You can literally put a bullet through it, and it still runs," he said. The ES7000 is equipped with only 12 processors now, but Marino said he's looking at consolidating other applications on the machine - a move that would expand the number of processors. "It's not even sneezing at the load we're putting on it now," he noted.

Joe Mohen, CEO of Election.com Inc. in Garden City, N.Y., said he plans to use a Compaq-branded ES7000 loaded with 32 processors and 32GB of memory in order to handle the peak loads of the online elections that his company conducts. For a national election, Mohen said, that could mean processing up to 6,000 votes per second with full encryption and voter authentication capabilities.

Microsoft has a lot riding on the Unisys machine, according to Cassell. "If Microsoft's going to be successful [at the enterprise level], they need a mainframe, and this is it," he said.

Cassell added that Unisys was able to leapfrog other high-end server vendors on the number of supported processors because it was "not afraid of the not-invented-here syndrome." For the ES7000, he said, Unisys adopted cellular multiprocessing technology that shares memory among all processors.

Copyright © 2000 IDG Communications, Inc.

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