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HP Rejiggers HP-UX 11i Packaging as Update 2 Ships

Published: April 9, 2008

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

As part of its rollout of the "Vibrancy" tweak of its HP-UX 11i v3 operating system for PA-RISC and Itanium servers, known publicly as Update 2, Hewlett-Packard this week is repackaging its HP-UX operating system in four new editions that the company says better fits the way that customers consume its soft wares on its hardware. The delivery of Update 2 is significant because it came right on time, unlike the much-delayed initial HP-UX 11i v3 release.

Last fall, when HP delivered the "Vitality" tweak for HP-UX 11i v3, also known as Update 1, Brian Cox, director of software planning and marketing for the company's Business Critical Systems unit, said that HP wanted to get its Unix software update schedule down to a regular drumbeat. That means an update every six months and a new version every three years. Update 2 is coming right on schedule this week, and that is the kind of consistency customers like to see. And Cox said this week that HP is on track to deliver Update 3 in six months. He also reiterated that HP-UX 11i v4 was being billed as a platform on which companies could deploy "zero downtime virtualization" and is on schedule for a 2010 launch, and that 11i v5 was on the whiteboard now and is slated for a 2013 delivery. He did not elaborate on what HP-UX 11i v5 would be all about.

This week, HP wants to concentrate on the here and now, with HP-UX 11i v3 Update 2 and with the new way of packaging the software it has come up with. First and foremost, Update 2 has some kernel tweaks and other optimizations and tunings that will bring another 10 percent performance boost on the database and application workloads typically run on HP-UX boxes. The jump from 11i v2 to 11i v3, just from a software perspective, provided an average of 30 percent more performance on such workloads on the same iron. Clearly, a lot of the low hanging fruit has been picked in the HP-UX performance field, but 10 percent is 10 percent and it is nothing to shake a stick at. The networking stack can run twice as fast on some workloads, according to HP, which is a big deal.

The updated HP-UX also allows PA-RISC and Itanium boxes to host earlier releases side-by-side with 11i v3 in virtual partitions (vPars). Specifically, Itanium-based Integrity servers can now have vPars running HP-UX 11i v2 or v3 and PA-RISC HP 9000 boxes, which also supported HP-UX 11i v1, can support v1, v2, and v3 inside vPars on those servers. Up until now, vPars have been an all-or-nothing proposition in terms of release levels. This capability was inherent in HP-UX, according to Cox, but it took HP a lot of time to test and certify the myriad combinations and software stacks that are commonly deployed on HP-UX in vPars to ensure it worked perfectly. Big Unix shops get cranky when things crash. Like cranky enough to move to AIX or Solaris.

The initial release of HP-UX 11i v3 already supported the future "Tukwila" quad-core Itanium processors, which are due later this year and which will ship in Integrity systems in early 2009. Undoubtedly, there will be further tuning of kernels to get the most performance out of Tukwila. "We already have Tukwila silicon in the labs," says Cox, "and it is looking better than what we saw when we first got ahold of Montecito."

Update 2 also includes improvements in the mass storage stack of drivers and other storage-release software inside HP-UX. This software now runs faster and with less overhead, according to Cox. The metropolitan and geographically distributed clustering software that was launched with Update 1 back in October 2007 when HP-UX systems were used in conjunction with high-end HP XP storage arrays now is supported on midrange EVA storage arrays from HP and high-end and midrange disk arrays from EMC that support its Symmetrix Remote Data Facility software.

As for the new bundling scheme for HP-UX, it is just a little different as far as I can tell. Seven years ago, HP created three different packages, which it called Operating Environments, or OEs, for HP-UX. These included Foundation OE, which is a base operating system; the Enterprise OE, which included middleware, virtualization, and other systems software; and the Mission Critical OE, which added on high availability clustering. Eventually, HP also created a Technical Computing OE to pursue supercomputing workloads, which had special math libraries that commercial customers don't care about and which presumably had a lower price than the Foundation OE. The OEs not only scaled in terms of functionality, but also in price. So you only had to pay for what you use. On new machines, HP-UX 11i v3 Foundation cost $495 per socket on machines with two sockets (unless it is a blade server, in which case it costs $150 per socket). The Enterprise OE edition cost $3,395 per socket on a machine with two or four sockets and $4,770 per socket on a machine with eight or more sockets. The Mission Critical OE costs $6,865 per socket on a box with two or four sockets and $8,240 per socket on a machine with eight or more sockets.

With Update 2, HP now has four different OEs. The Base OE is akin to the old Foundation OE, in that it provides the basic functionality of the standalone, single system image HP-UX platform. The Virtual Server OE strips out the nPar and vPar virtualization hypervisors for PA-RISC and Itanium servers and adds those layers to the Base OE. The High Availability OE takes the Base OE and adds the ServiceGuard MC high availability clustering software for HP-UX; what this means is that you can do HA without having to pay for virtualization. Before, if you wanted the Mission Critical OE, you ended up paying for everything HP sold. And finally, if you want the whole enchilada like the Mission Critical OE offered, you can now get what is called the Data Center OE, which combines the Virtual Server OE and High Availability OE packages together.

No matter what you call it, the Foundation or Base OE is the most popularly deployed HP-UX instance and was pretty much the only one customers put on machines with four or fewer sockets. But once customers are willing to spend money, the Enterprise OE was popular, particularly on midrange boxes; not surprisingly, Superdome machines had a very high connect rate with the Mission Critical OE, according to Cox, and he is anticipating that the High Availability OE will be very popular among customers going forward. The Virtual Server OE is a little harder to sell, since virtualization is still relatively new in data center environments, but this will also ramp up, too. The important things as far as customers are concerned is that they pay for what they use and they only have to patch once instead of trying to do it for all the different systems software on their box individually. These packages simplify patching and updating, and that is what customers really want.

The one thing that HP did not announce with the rejiggered OE packages for HP-UX 11i v3 is what these different programs cost. "We do not have pricing to share, as it varies by country," I was told by an HP spokesperson in the aftermath of my interview with Cox. "Customers should contact their local sales representative for details."

Or, just keep reading The Unix Guardian. I'll tell you what the software costs as soon as I root out the list prices. Count on it.


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