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HP Integrity servers get new Itanium chip

Hewlett-Packard continues to push the Intel Itanium 2 chip over RISC-based processors with the expansion of its Integrity server line to include the most updated Itanium. Also, HP adds two servers to the Integrity line, both entry-class.

Hewlett-Packard Co. announced today that it is incorporating the new dual-core Intel Itanium 2 chip into its Integrity servers in a bid to boost its standing in the Unix server market.

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Along with the upgrade of almost the entire Integrity line, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company will introduce two more entry-class servers, the four-core rx3600 and the eight-core rx6600. The new servers also contain a new chipset called zx2 that HP says doubles the energy efficiency and cuts power and cooling costs in half. The machines are available with HP-UX, Windows, Linux and OpenVMS operating systems.

  • The rx3600 is a 4U server that has the 1.4 GHz Itanium processor with 12 MB of cache, 2-4 cores and 96 GB of memory.
  • The rx6600 is a 7U server that can have the 1.4 GHz/12 MB Itanium 2 or 1.6 GHz models with 18 MB or 24 MB of cache, along with 2-8 cores and 192 GB of memory.
  • Though the Unix server market has been declining slowly, it still accounted for $4.3 billion in revenues last quarter, which was 35% of all server spending, according to Framingham, Mass.-based research firm IDC. The same study reported that there was particularly strong growth in the volume segment of the Unix market.

    Most Itanium systems run HP-UX, and since coming out in 2001, the Itanium chip has grown to be a viable alternative to RISC-designed chips such as UltraSparc from Sun Microsystems Inc., the Power chip from IBM Corp. and even HP's own PA-RISC.

    Joe Clabby, president of Yarmouth, Maine-based Clabby Analytics, said he hasn't been that impressed with Itanium, though he did commend its dual-core nature, as well as power and cooling capabilities and virtualization aspects.

    "The promise of Itanium was that it was going to be the biggest, baddest, fastest chip, and it was going to blow away RISC," Clabby said. "I've seen nothing that shows it's going to blow away RISC."

    The most recent performance results from nonprofit TPC, which measures transaction processing and database benchmarks, show that RISC-based systems have six of the top 10 performing benchmarks. All of them are from IBM's Power processor, including the top three. Itanium has the other four, including three from HP.

    So, although Itanium hasn't been blowing away RISC chips, it's in the mix.

    "Itanium is a competitive processor," said Gordon Haff, an analyst with Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata Inc. "It's very competitive with UltraSparc. IBM has turned in some impressive high-end benchmarks with Power5+. We can argue about where [Itanium] stands with Power5+, but it's a competitive processor."

    Clabby added that HP's decision to abandon PA-RISC in general and cling to Itanium isn't good for their business. "PA-RISC is at end-of-life," he said. "Look what they did to their poor customers. Now you have to move to a completely different architecture."

    But Tim Danielsen, HP's worldwide product line manager for business-critical servers, said the Integrity server line, especially the new models, fit into what their customers want.

    "When we look at the marketplace for HP-UX, we actually sell more four-core configurations than anything else," he said. "It really is the sweet spot for what customers are using."

    Regardess, Haff said the expansion of the newest Itanium chip within Integrity servers is no surprise and likely won't matter much to customers.

    "Users don't really care that much about the processor," he said. "They care about application availability. With high-end systems, they care about the company selling them the systems. They're not buying the processor, though, especially at the high-end."

    Pricing for the new HP Integrity servers compares to the current generation, ranging from the rx2620 at about $5,000 to the Superdome at about $210,000. In between are the rx3600 ($10,531), rx4640 ($15,614), rx6600 ($14,771), rx7640 ($33,058) and rx8640 ($74,725).

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