IBM has signed a technology partnering agreement with Compaq to jointly develop the 64bit Alpha platform.
Bill Heil, vice president of Compaq's business-critical server division, confirmed the deal today at the Compaq Technology Symposium in Munich. He hinted that IBM's copper and silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology would be the first fruit of the collaboration.
He also said that Compaq was interested in IBM's 0.18 micron flip-chip packing technology, and that shipments of copper based Alphas should commence early next year.
"We've had some very good results with Alpha," said Heil. "People hear the rumours about Alpha but they don't hear the facts. We've also had very good results just in pure numbers with analysts citing Compaq as the fastest growing Unix vendor in Europe."
"If you look at our last quarter earnings we had very good midrange and low-end growth in Unix, and the only softness in our business was in the high-end of our Unix product line. But with the AlphaServer GS launch you should see that part of business really take off," he added.
Hoping to achieve $1bn in Alpha revenue by the end of the year for its recently launched GS range, Heil said that Compaq would be heavily focusing on providing equipment for the business-to-business infrastructure. He said Compaq would be targeting Alpha in areas such as telecoms, ebusiness and the high performance technical computing space.
Chris Martin, an analyst at Xephon, was surprised at the move because the PowerPC and Alpha chip represent competing architectures.
"This shows that vendors can often be competitors and suppliers, with in this case IBM's microelectronics business doing external business," said Martin, who added that underlying chip technologies are a small, but important, part in the overall appeal of a server platform.
Although Alpha's route to market is a mixture of direct and indirect, Heil said: "Channel partners are extremely important for our Alpha business especially for attacking some of the vertical markets we are going after especially when it comes to serving the ASP/ISP market space."
On a global basis, 50 per cent of Compaq's Alpha business is through channels, according to Heil, who also said that the company is looking to extend its mostly direct Himalaya offering to the indirect market. "Channels are increasingly becoming important for our business critical computing space," he said.
IBM joins Samsung and Alpha Processor, who recently invested $400m to develop the chip.
Additional reporting by John Leyden, vnunet.com
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