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HP parades the PA-RISC 8700

Shows off some servers

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HP gracefully side-stepped questions about the Compaq merger at its launch of a new mid-range server at Cupertino today. Today also marks the coming-out party for the PA-RISC 8700, more of which anon.

The RP8400 fills a gap in the mid-range, at around 16 CPUs, but we wondered if that's because there isn't really any demand for kit of such size: as Sun has run with an even greater void in its own mid-range (which it's slated to fill with the StarCats next week) without suffering too badly.

HP, of course, insists there is. The RP8400 maxes out at 16 processors, which neatly enough, is the starting point for the Superdome servers. Although the RP8400 is a new chassis, HP isn't obsoleting its current 8600-based systems. The RP8400 shares the same interconnect, cell controller, ASICs and power distribution as its big brother, and the same HP Runway bus as the 8600 based N Class. It achieves an impressive density: up to 16 processors in a 17U high box.

The 8700 which is built to a .18 micron process using silicon on insulator and copper, will gradually be introduced into higher and lower servers in due course. It debuts at 650 and 750Mhz, with 2.25MB of cache.

The next revs of PA-RISC will follow the dual core approach also adopted by IBM in its POWER4 processor. Sun has said that UltraSPARC V will adopt SMT techniques, and Intel said it wants to put SMT (or, cough, HyperThreading) into Itanic as well as next year's Xeon MP processors. 8800 will be the first to feature two cores on a die, slated for early 2003, with the final PA-RISC 8900 following a year later.

HP execs told us Intel has some tricks up its sleeve for accelerating future versions of Itanic, but woudn't elaborate. Nor were there any clues about how a merged HPaq would consolidate its server lines. But we did ask.

HP also says it has plenty of chipset designers left, despite the formal transfer of 80 engineers to Chipzilla. It insists it can still differentiate itself on the hardware from the Dells and other box-shifters. Chipset engineers remain in Fort Collins, Colorado and Richardson, Texas where the bulk of the work for the RP8400 and Superdome was done, respectively. ®

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