late August, 1999, Compaq started shipments of its eight-CPU Intel servers,
the ProLiant 8000 and 8500. The ProLiant 8X00 series is part of the next generation
of Intel servers (along with offerings from Dell, HP, IBM, and others) which
utilize the Profusion chipset. (This chipset allows servers to break through
the previous limitation of four CPUs for the Intel architecture.) Although both
products are geared toward the enterprise computing segment, they address different
areas within that segment the PL8000 can function either as a standalone or
in a rack, the 8500 must be racked, and needs other hardware (primarily disk
drives) to support its configuration. Whichever model is chosen, these products
are aimed at large datacenter/data warehouse environments, as well as other
large-scale computing environments. This product will also be used to consolidate
and upgrade existing servers.
main competitors in this space are Dell, HP, and IBM. There are other vendors
producing eight-way Intel servers (e.g. Unisys, Hitachi), but we do not believe
they will be (serious) market share competitors. (Market share figures for Intel
servers is shown in Table 1 and Graph 1.) In general, the Intel server market
is growing, and these products will satisfy pent-up demand, but we do not expect
the volumes to be significant (when compared to four-way servers) until next
1: Intel Server Market Share 2Q '99
Strategy and Trajectory
is positioning the ProLiant 8X00 series to address a number of markets:
External to the customer: ERP, E-commerce
Internal to the customer: mail and messaging, terminal
General: Data warehousing, datacenters
is highlighting a number of areas where it feels it has a competitive advantage:
Performance, price/performance, and technology. In addition to their traditional
strength in price/performance and performance, Compaq has an inside track on
Profusion's design, due to their co-development efforts with Intel and Corollary
(developer of Profusion, bought by Intel in 1996). Since this chipset is the
heart of the eight-way architecture, Compaq has gained a short term advantage.
of the relatively low price approximately $20K base price (vs. $7-$8K for
a four-CPU base unit) -some "cannibalization" of four-CPU markets is expected.
the eight-way servers (in general) are now the "biggest kid on the [Intel] block",
this position is expected to last only until Merced/McKinley arrive 12 months
from now for Merced (80% probability), two years for McKinley (60% probability).
Since McKinley, not Merced, is expected to provide the performance leap, this
should give the current eight-way servers approximately 18-24 months at the
top of the Intel scale. After that, these systems become "mid-range" products.
Until Merced ships, we expect the worldwide market size for eight-way servers
to be approximately $5-$8 Billion. (Note: Merced will not immediately "cannibalize"
the market for eight-way servers, because of the change from the current IA-32
architecture to Merced's IA-64 architecture. This change will effect much more
than hardware, and therefore migration will not be immediate.)
Set/Flexibility: The ProLiant 8000 is presently the only eight-way server
from the "Big Four" server manufacturers which can stand alone all the others
(including the ProLiant 8500) are rack-based. (So is the 8000, at 14U high,
but there is a tower conversion kit for it.) Additionally, the 8000 can house
up to 21 disk drives, allowing lots of raw storage space, but also providing
the flexibility for a large RAID setup.
on present $/tpmC results from the TPC, Compaq continues to be a price/performance
leader ($18.70/tpmC). We expect this leadership to continue, with the only serious
competition expected to be from Dell. The raw performance numbers are also very
good (>40,000 tpmC), but we expect Dell to post similar numbers within three
months (60% probability).
The 8500 has four hot-swappable hard drive bays, more than any major competitor
(except the ProLiant 8000). Although it is not a targeted application, this
capability does allow the customer to have an internal RAID setup.
The 8500 is almost completely modular: all of the major components Main Logic
Board (MLB), power supplies, fans, I/O cards, hard disk drives - can be swapped
(by the customer) quickly, without tools. This also allows a customer to install
a 20-lb. chassis at the top of a six-foot-high rack and add subunits one at
a time this is in contrast to trying to mount a 100+ lb. unit, as has been
typical in the industry.
The 8500's figures ($18.46/tpmC) are even better than the 8000, and are approximately
$1.50/tpmC better than the Unisys Aquanta E2085. However, we expect Dell to
post figures similar to Compaq's within three months.
At 7U high, this system is the same size as Compaq's four-way offerings (except
the PL 6400R), and thus capable of a "box upgrade" (euphemism for "pull out
the old system box, put in one of these") for earlier ProLiant models, or for
systems made by Dell and HP. IBM, at 8U high, is at a competitive disadvantage
As mentioned earlier, Compaq co-developed the Profusion with Corollary/Intel.
This has already provided Compaq with a slight (~2-3 weeks) advantage with regard
to which manufacturer ships eight-way systems first. However, we expect more
significant benefit to come from the system's logic design, and any performance
or feature advantages that Compaq's engineers can design into the system.
addition, Compaq's use of "heat pipes" (a cooling technology) allows slightly
greater design flexibility (and greater thermal margin) vs. the more conventional
use of extruded aluminum heatsinks.
ProLiant servers benefit from Compaq's service/support capabilities (from the
Digital acquisition). Although customer-serviceable components are becoming
the norm, there is still a strong need for vendor support.
Integrated SCSI Controller Although performance issues make it desirable for
customers to buy add-in SCSI controller(s), they should not be required
to do so just to get a working storage subsystem.
The CD, floppy, and removable media devices are in the wrong place if the
unit is freestanding who wants to bend that far over just to put in a CD or
diskette or tape (for backup)?
removable media devices: The box is tightly packaged, but having at least
one additional media bay would be beneficial to customers.
Capabilities: Profusion can support up to 32GB of RAM. Although Compaq feels
customers will never need/use more than the 16GB Compaq provides, having the
flexibility to expand would be helpful to a customer.
Slots: Compaq provides only two 66 MHz slots, half of its competition. Since
the same I/O board is used in both products, this comment applies to both.
Issues: Dell has been gaining ground on Compaq, and Compaq has been "distracted"
due to problems with the Digital acquisition. Those problems appear to be subsiding,
and we expect Compaq to return to its former focus within 12 months (70% probability),
but they are not there yet.
is not yet clear that customers want both a rack and a freestanding-optional
product. Since the high-end server marketplace will be dominated by rackmount
systems (See TEC's Research Note: "High-End
Wintel-based Rackmount Servers The Big Get Bigger" August, 1999), it is
not clear that a 14U-tall rackmount-which-can-convert will have a sufficiently
large market presence. People who need lots of drives can buy storage expansion
enclosures to mount underneath a 7U-high server, with little (if any) feature
set loss. However, since the mechanical design was just a modest repackaging
of the PL 7000, Compaq probably thought the monetary risk was acceptable. Other
than this issue, the product is positioned appropriately.
should modify its PCI implementation by adding more 66 MHz slots, and add at
least one more slot overall. These changes will give them parity in almost every
feature category, and the clear winner in others.
should leverage everything it can from the Corollary/Intel co-development relationship
this can provide long term benefits, either through quicker product development
or through development of more feature- and performance-rich systems.
Compaq should use its current time advantage as much as possible with an aggressive
sales campaign, and consider using the expected Merced delays as a lever, while
carefully balancing against the potential alienation of Intel.
products are good choices for clients who have high-end computing environments,
such as data warehouses or server consolidation requirements. The feature set
and hardware reliability features are excellent, and the only technology concern
is based in the Profusion chipset, due to its newness. However, Compaq's co-development
relationship should reduce Profusion-related concerns.
ProLiant 8500 is a better choice for those users who either need the flexibility
of mixing and matching components in a rack, or who are still unsure of what
their needs are. We believe that the ProLiant 8000 is appropriate only for those
users who know they need a self-contained solution, especially if it is the
only server they plan to buy. If customers need more than one or two servers,
then the 8500 is the better choice.
addition, the lack of an integrated SCSI controller and small amount of 66 MHz
PCI slots can be used by the customer to gain concessions in other areas.
ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning
RAID: Redundant Array of Inexpensive/Independent Disks
TPC, TPC-C, tpmC: Transaction Processing Performance Council and
its performance rating system
SCSI: Small Computer Systems Interface (disk storage interface used
in servers and PCs)
PCI: Peripheral Component Interconnect (an I/O bus used in servers
U: Rack unit: a unit of height in rack systems, equal to 1.75"