HP announces HP-UX 11i for Itanium 2

Looks like July 8 for McKinley roll-out

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Hewlett Packard Co will today take the wraps off of the second release of its HP-UX operating system for workstations and servers employing 64-bit Itanium processors from Intel Corp. HP-UX 11i version 1.6, which will start shipping in the second or third week of July.

This launch date for the Itanium version of the HP-UX operating system is presumably more or less concurrent with the impending launch of the second generation "McKinley" Itanium processors. Thus far, Intel has been hush-hush about when we can expect to see McKinley rolled out, but the rumor mill says July 8 looks like a likely launch date with shipments following either immediately or within a few weeks.

While HP is launching the improved HP-UX operating system for the Itanium processors along side the McKinleys, going forward the 12 to 18 month update cycle for HP-UX will be tied more to customer requirements and development schedules than to what Intel is doing.

HP launched the first implementation of HP-UX for the Itanium family of processors in June 2001, when Intel finally started shipping the "Merced" Itanium chips, which were very late to market and, in some respects, yielded workstations and servers that did not fit the needs of companies who have been buying RISC/Unix products.

With the Itanium 2 chips, Intel has done a lot of things to boost the performance of the chips, and HP has brought its HP-UX operating system closer to parity with the version of HP-UX for its PA-RISC family of workstations and servers. The initial HP-UX implementation for the Itaniums lacked a lot of features of the version of HP-UX for PA-RISC. Many of these are being rolled into the second generation of HP-UX software for Itanium. According to Ram Appalaraju, director of marketing for HP-UX, the two operating systems will reach feature parity in 2003 with the release of HP-UX 11i version 2.

Appalaraju says that HP has over 2,500 software engineers working on the HP-UX operating system and its related system programs located in its software engineering centers in Fort Collins, Colorado; Cupertino and Roseville, California; Richardson, Texas; and Bangalore, India.

He boasts that it has over 1.7 million HP-UX licenses shipped since it entered the Unix market in the late 1980s, and that it has over 60,000 installations of mission critical applications supported by its MC ServiceGuard high availability clustering software. He also says there are over 15,000 licenses of the workload management software for HP-UX developed by HP, including Process Resource Manager (PRM) and WorkLoad Manager (WLM).

The Itanium version of HP-UX is the same code base as that used for the PA-RISC line of HP machines. However some features - such as virtual partitioning - are not yet available for the Itanium line and will not be until next year. But HP-UX 11i version 1.6 brings the PA-RISC and Itanium implementations of the Unix operating system a lot closer to parity, and close enough for a lot of commercial customers who are not yet quite sure what to do with partitions anyway.

HP-UX 11i version 1.6 runs on both the Merced and McKinley generations of Itanium processors. The operating system kernel supports symmetric multiprocessing that spans up to 64 processors in a single system image, and features a kernel that has been optimized for the Itanium architecture, which is very different from the PA-RISC core. (There is a distinct PA-RISC kernel in HP-UX that is optimized for HP's own line of RISC processors, of course, and there will continue to be for a number of years as the company makes the transition from one chip to another in its products.)

The HP-UX 11i version 1.5 operating system that shipped last June only supported up to 16-way Itanium machines, which was the biggest Itanium server that HP made at the time. Now, in theory, the Itanium platform can span the same processor count as the Superdome PA-RISC servers. Equally importantly, the Itanium version of the operating system also supports Hyper Fabric II clustering from HP, which allows up to 64 server nodes to be clustered together. The prior Itanium implementation of HP-UX was only able to use the Hyper Fabric I technology, which was limited to 16 nodes.

One of the interesting features in the Itanium version of HP-UX that has been enhanced beyond the current PA-RISC version is dynamic kernel tunables. Appalaraju says that HP surveyed 3,000 of its customers and tracked the reasons why they rebooted their servers. After looking through the data, HP figured out that the main reason that customers rebooted was that their changing application workloads often required them to change kernel settings or actually make changes to the kernel.

HP delivered a dozen dynamic kernel tunables in HP-UX last year, which allowed companies to tweak the kernel in ways that they needed to and not reboot the server. These 12 tunables eliminated 50% of HP-UX reboots in the customer base, and the 14 new tunables that are coming with the latest Itanium version of HP-UX will eliminate another 25% of reboots. These additional tunables will be added to the PA-RISC version of HP-UX next year when the two versions reach parity.

The new Itanium version also has improvements in threading that will be rolled into the PA-RISC version next year. HP-UX 11i version 1.6 for Itaniums also includes support for the journal file system and volume manager that HP OEM's from Veritas, dynamic processor and memory resilience, MC ServiceGuard clustering, Network File System with high availability clustering, IP failover, and multiport IP support, all of which are already in the PA-RISC version of HP-UX 11i. The security stack in the two implementations of HP-UX have now reached parity as well, says Appalaraju.

The Itanium version of HP-UX now has the same Linux API compiling environment that has been available for PA-RISC machines since last year, which will help customers port IA-32 Linux applications to HP-UX. This Linux porting kit includes an open source developer toolkit, Linux-compatible APIs for HP-UX, a Linux software transition kit, and a porting guide with related services.

Perhaps more significantly, HP will by the first half of 2003, include a Linux runtime environment within HP-UX that will allow them to run Itanium-compiled binaries directly on Itanium-based workstations and servers. This binary runtime will presumably not support binaries compiled on IA-32 processors, and it will not be available on PA-RISC machines.

On the Java front, the Itanium implementation of HP-UX includes a 32-bit Java 1.3 virtual machine to run Java applications, and by October or November 2002, it will include a 64-bit Java 1.4 virtual machine.

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