HP roadmaps Itanium futures as McKinley debuts

HP goes mad on mountain themes...

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Hewlett Packard Co, perhaps the biggest supporter of the Itanium architecture aside from Intel Corp, took the launch of the "McKinley" Itanium 2 processor from Intel yesterday as an opportunity to elaborate on its immediate and long-term plans to incorporate the Itanium 2 processors as well as future generations of IA-64 processors into the HP workstation and server product lines,

writes Timothy Prickett Morgan.

As the company has previously disclosed, Hewlett Packard's initial Itanium 2 servers and workstations are based on its "Pluto" zx1 chipset. The HP Workstation zx2000 is a uniprocessor McKinley workstation, while the zx6000 is a dual-processor machine. HP has already been shipping limited quantities of i2000 workstations based on Intel's 460GX chipset and the 733MHz and 800MHz versions of the first generation "Merced" Itanium processors. The entry zx2000 workstation has a single 900MHz McKinley chip with 1.5MB of L3 cache, AGP4X graphics, and up to 4GB of DDR SDRAM main memory, and up to 146GB of disk space all packed into a 4U rack or tower. The midrange zx6000 workstation uses the 900MHz version of the McKinley processor with 1.5MB of L3 cache and has AGP4X graphics as well as support for up to 12GB of main memory. The high-end zx6000 has the faster 1GHz McKinley chip with the 3MB L3 cache memory. Both workstations come in a 2U rack or tower chassis.

HP says that the zx2000 workstation will sell for around $4,600 in an entry configuration, around $6,000 for an average configuration, and around 11,000 for a large configuration. The company expects that the dual-processor capable zx6000 workstations will sell for about $7,000 on the street for entry configurations, around $13,000 for the average configuration, and around $27,000 for large configurations. These machines support HP-UX 11i version 1.6, 64-bit Windows 2000, and 64-bit Linux. The future "Madison" and "Montecito" revs of the Itanium chip architecture will plug directly into these boxes as well.

On the server side, the Pluto servers include the two-way rx2600 and the four-way rx5670. All of these machines can be ordered now, and will begin shipping in August. HP has not yet revamped the 16-way rx9610, which is based on NEC Corp's "AzuzA" chipset, to work with the Itanium 2 processor, and it is unclear when and if it will do this.

HP is, however, working on a new chipset, code-named "Pinnacles," an obvious reference to the mountain code-naming theme of many Itanium chips and prior HP PA-RISC server lines, which had mountain themes as well (the rp8400, for instance, is code-named "Matterhorn," and the early Superdome code-name was apparently Denali, the Native American name for Mount McKinley in Alaska and now the name of the national park where Mount McKinley resides). The Pinnacles chipset resides on a special board that is compatible with the current line of PA-RISC servers from HP, which means that Superdome, rp8400, and rp7410 servers can have their current chipsets removed and replaced with a Pinnacles board and then swap in McKinley, Madison, or Montecito Itanium processors into their machines for PA-RISC processors when and if they decide to change processor architectures. The Pinnacles chipset will not support PA-RISC and Itanium chips within the same chassis, but it will, through HP's virtual and hard partitioning, allow companies to support HP-UX, Linux, and Windows partitions concurrently on a single machine.

Mark Hudson, worldwide marketing manager for HP's Business Systems and Technology Organization, says that the Pinnacles chipset will scale from 8 to 64 processors and that it will debut with the Madison Itanium chip, due sometime in 2003. Eventually, the Pinnacles chipset will scale to 128 processors, says Hudson, but it is unclear if that will happen when Intel crams more Itanium cores on a single chip or if HP will expand the SMP functionality of the Pinnacles chipset to literally support 128 distinct Itanium processors.

The rx2600 is a 2U rack server that supports the 900MHz/1.5MB L3 cache or 1GHz/3MB L3 cache versions of the McKinley chip. This server supports up to 12GB of DDR SDRAM memory, up to 219GB of internal disk capacity, and four PCI-X peripheral slots. The rx5670 server is a 7U rack-mounted machine that supports up to 48GB of DDR SDRAM memory and up to 292GB of internal disk capacity and which has nine PCI-X slots and a single PCI slot. Both servers support HP-UX 11I version 1.6, Windows 2000 Advanced Server Limited Edition version 1.2, and Linux.

Hudson says that he expects an entry configuration of the rx2600 server to sell for around $7,300 on the street in the United States, the average configuration to sell for $16,000, and a large configuration to sell for about $33,000. For the bigger and more powerful rx5670 server, Hudson says that the entry street price in the U.S. will be around $23,000. The price of an average rx5670 configuration in the States will be around $38,000 and large configurations will sell for around $64,000.

In an interesting aside during a discussion of the product rollouts with ComputerWire, Ron Schloss, content development manager for the Business Systems and Technology Organization, said that HP believed that it would be able to create chipsets like the zx1 and Pinnacles that would yield a performance advantage of 15% to 20% over competing chipsets for Itanium processors, because HP was creating chipsets with higher memory and I/O bandwidth, lower memory latency, and faster memory subsystems. This is a pretty bold assertion, and one that people will be testing as other vendors roll out benchmarks on Itanium 2 and future Itanium servers. Schloss also said that HP reckons that by around 2005 or so, more than half of HP's systems sales will be of Itanium servers. Many server customers will cling to their PA-RISC and IA-32 architectures for a while, which is just the way things go in the computer business. timpm@computerwire.com

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