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HP launches 4-way ProLiant blade servers

First high volume vendor to do so

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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

As expected, Hewlett-Packard Co yesterday upgraded its ProLiant BL "QuickBlade" series of blade servers with the first four-way blade server,

writes Timothy Prickett-Morgan.

While HP is not the first vendor to offer a four-way blade (niche high-end blade vendor eGenera has been shipping a four-way blade since last year), it is the first maker of high-volume blade servers to get a four-way blade into the field.

IBM will apparently also deliver a four-way "Xcalibur" BladeCenter server sometime early this year, and is trying to close the announcement gap it has with HP.

The new ProLiant BL40p is based on the "Gallatin" version of the Pentium 4 Xeon MP processor, and HP is offering the 1.5GHz/1MB L3 cache and 2GHz/2MB L3 cache versions of these chips on the blades. (The 1.9GHz/1MB L3 cache Gallatin chip is not offered.) All of the processors on a blade must be running at the same speed.

The BL40p blade server has up to 12GB of main memory, and up to four hot-plug SCSI disk drives can be configured on each blade. HP says that its 36GB disk drives are standard on the box, but customers can also plug in 72GB or 146GB SCSI disks if they need more storage capacity on the blade.

For customers who want to connect to larger amounts of file storage or who want to weave blades into their storage area networks, the BL40p blade servers can be equipped with a mezzanine Fibre Channel adapter card that lets the blade access data on a SAN. This, says Hugh Jenkins, vice president for marketing for HP's Industry Standard Server unit, is something that HP's current and prospective blade server customers have been clamoring for.

The BL40p blade servers plug into the same 6U form factor chassis as the two-way BL20p cards; up to two four-way blades can be plugged into the chassis. That's a dozen four-way servers in a single rack. The previous generation of Pentium III Xeon "Profusion" eight-way servers fit in an 8U chassis, so only five can fit in a standard 42U rack. What this means is that the blade version of the four-way server is slightly more dense (in terms of CPU count) as the tower/rack ProLiant servers HP has been shipping (48 processors versus 40 processors). This density is the same as companies can attain using two-way BL20p blades (again, in terms of processor count). The four-way BL40p blade will be available for ordering in the middle of March and will ship at the end of March.

HP yesterday also upgraded its two-way ProLiant BL20p blade servers so they can use the fastest "Prestonia" Pentium 4 Xeon DP processors that Intel Corp offers. HP launched the two-way QuickBlades in late August 2002, a little later than the expected mid-2002 date, but this is still a new market so the penalty for delay is not so great. The original two-way BL20p blade servers had one or two 1.4GHz Pentium III processors and came with 512MB of main memory (expandable to 4GB) and enough room in its 6U chassis to hold 144GB of hot-swap disk capacity. Each p-Class machine can have eight blades per 6U chassis, or 16 processors, and up to 48 blades per 42U standard rack, or 96 processors.

The latest Prestonia blades are based on the fastest 2.8GHz version of that processor, and they offer up to 8GB of main memory. The new BL20p blades also have the SAN mezzanine cards that allow for SAN connectivity for those customers who prefer SAN data storage to on-blade storage. Customers will be able to order the updated BL20p blade, which plugs into the same 6U chassis, starting in mid-March, with shipments by the end of the month.

Early adopter customers have had these machines since December, said Jenkins. He also said that HP will continue to sell blades based on the 1.4GHz Pentium III processors for a while, since some customers have standardized on them already and have no desire to start mixing blades.

Finally, HP has updated the first of its QuickBlade servers, the BL10e, with a 900MHz Pentium III Ultra Low Voltage processor. The original BL10e QuickBlades started to ship about a year ago with 700MHz Pentium III ULV chips, and in 2002 these were upgraded to 800MHz Pentium III ULV chips.

These faster processors allay one of the concerns with the entry QuickBlades, namely that they do not have enough power or bandwidth to run anything but web infrastructure workloads. While the faster processor helps, and so does a higher-performing 40GB ATA disk drive that HP is offering on this blade. These machines did not get the mezzanine card for SAN connectivity, and therefore their I/O bandwidth is still somewhat limited. HP allows NAS connectivity on these boxes, but NAS is not the same thing as SAN when it comes to performance.

What this ProLiant BL10e machine does do, however, is pack a lot of processors and blades into a single chassis. With the BL10e up to 280 uniprocessor blades can be crammed into a standard 42U rack. Each e-Class blade has two 10/100 Ethernet links, a 40GB ATA disk drive, and two memory banks that support up to 1GB of SDRAM. The backplane in the QuickBlade box is an industry standard Ethernet network. The chassis is also equipped with redundant hot plug fans and power supplies. The upgraded BL10e blade is available as of yesterday, and is expected to sell for about $1,859 in a base configuration.

HP expects the ProLiant BL40p blade server to sell for an estimated street price of $8,999, while the ProLiant BL20p will sell for $3,399. The exact configurations of these boxes were not available at press time. timpm@computerwire.com

© ComputerWire

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