Digital, HP nab $594M workstation buy

Digital Equipment Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. captured the Army's first major workstation procurement, a $594 million buy of Unix and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT-based computers, software and peripherals.

Army Workstation-I represents an important opportunity for both Digital and HP to gain share in the highly competitive Defense Department desktop market.

Unsuccessful bidders on the contract include Sysorex Information Systems Inc., Axil Computer, Concept Automation Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc.

Run by the Army's Small Computer Program office, Workstation-I brings together a diverse set of off-the-shelf hardware and software for scientific and engineering users and other Army customers with numeric- and graphics-intensive requirements.

In the past, the Army used NASA's Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement (SEWP) to buy this type of gear before NASA closed it to outside agencies, said Lt. Col. Mary Fuller, product manager for the Army's Small Computer Program. "The Army has not had a vehicle to buy workstations since we lost the ability to order off NASA SEWP.... We decided we needed to get our own contract in place," Fuller said.

"We see this as now rounding out our family of contracts for the Army," she said. In the last two years, the Army's Small Computer Program office has also awarded PC-1, Portable-1 and Small Multiuser Computer II.

Of the $594 million ceiling on Army Workstation-I, $495 million is available DOD-wide, while $99 million is open to civilian agencies.

The program offer three levels of system performance. Applications include database software, video teleconferencing and multimedia. Peripherals include tape backup systems, a CD-ROM jukebox and Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks systems.

In a break with other Unix-oriented procurements, the Army asked vendors to bid an alternate operating system that could run on the standard configuration. Digital, as expected, bid Windows NT, while HP bid a B1-level secure operating system.

Army Workstation-I marks Digital's third major win in the last two months, following Air Force Workstations in April and a subcontractor role on Desktop V earlier this month. "We are on an incredible roll," said James R. O'Neill, vice president and general manager of Digital's Federal Government Region.

Digital priced its AlphaStations very aggressively on Air Force Workstations and said the Army contract would offer comparable deals. For example, the company's low-end workstation more than doubles the Army's requirements, Digital said. The high-end offering runs at 333 MHz.

Digital said its ability to run Unix and Windows NT natively on the same AlphaStation was a significant factor in winning this contract. Applications in areas such as telemedicine require high-performance workstations, but users prefer Windows NT, said Mike Oates, Digital's Workstation-I program manager.

HP, the prime contractor on the Navy's Tactical Advanced Computer-4 program, sees a convergence between the Army's push into commercial off-the-shelf-oriented Unix workstations and its own contract history. "This is our first real COTS workstation procurement that will let us penetrate into the nontactical arena," said Charlie Trentacosti, marketing manager in HP's federal government business unit.

To put together its bid, HP relied heavily on channel partners, including Applix Inc., Exabyte, Informix Software Inc. and Insoft.

HP's new contract also may be one of the first places the company will offer its new 64-bit PA-8000 RISC processor, which the company will introduce next week.

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