While the release of entry-level Integrity systems for OpenVMS is a good start, a large percentage of the VMS user base uses midrange and high-end Alphas for high-availability applications or disaster recovery. So how does Integrity look to them?
“My real caution is around running seriously mission-critical stuff, especially on the big machines in the Alpha GS1280 class, not the smaller Alpha DS15 that can run on the Integrity rx2600,” said Butcher. “But the big stuff is not the kind of machine that you buy and replace quickly.”
HP originally planned to release OpenVMS version 8.2-1 with support for the full line of Integrity servers, including Superdome, some time in the first half of 2006. However, major OpenVMS customers demanded a more rapid time line. As a result, version 8.2-1 is scheduled for September 2005, with support for the Madison-9-based Superdome and rx8620 Integrity servers. HP also plans at that time to provide increased node support of mixed platform AlphaServer and Integrity clusters, and hard partition support for these systems.
“Users will like the performance of the midrange Integrity systems supported in V8.2-1, and I know they will like the price,” said Gorham. “Many have stated that the port was very easy and in certain cases ran faster on Integrity than on AlphaServers.”
Butcher does, however, express some reservations. “Performance might be an issue at the moment,” he says. “The big Alphas probably outperform the larger Itanium boxes, but that will change with time.”
Should I Stay, or Should I Go?
As far as existing Alpha users are concerned, who should move to Itanium and who shouldn’t? If everything you need is supported on Itanium, then consider using it from Day One. But be aware that you will be among the first to use it in a production environment.
“It’s all about assessing risk and striking an appropriate balance between risk and costs,” says Butcher. “Personally, I’d be more cautious in a large-scale, mission-critical environment where a small number of big systems are in use.”
Other important criteria to consider in any move from Alpha- to Itanium-based systems are consolidation, performance, and cost. According to HP, some applications receive a performance boost on Integrity compared to the old Alpha hardware. For larger-scale systems, however, such a performance increase is probably a few years away.
“Be aware of support costs for Alpha, which will probably rise above those for Itanium boxes,” said Gezelter. “And don’t rush to be the first to use the new systems unless you have some pretty good reasons to do so.”