HP pads Itanium server line with midrange kit

Midrange Unix under Itanic attack

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It took a while, but HP now has an Itanium-based server replacement for just about every PA-RISC box it sells.

On Monday, HP added two new midrange servers to its Itanium line - the eight processor rx7620 and the 16 processor rx8620. These systems fill a gap between the 1- to 4-way and 64-way Itanium servers already on sale from HP. In addition, the new kit signals that HP is indeed ready to begin moving all of its customers off of PA-RISC and Alpha servers and onto Itanic.

HP also rolled out a new low-end ProLiant system and pre-packaged Linux clusters. HP turned to a tennis comparison to express what this massive hardware launch means to the company.

"The rules of the game have changed in the server market, and it's clearly 'advantage HP,'" said Scott Stallard, EVP of enterprise storage and servers at HP.

Stallard's optimism is appreciated, but HP faces serious challenges at the moment. The most recent data from Gartner shows that HP faces an increasing threat from IBM and Dell. HP still owns the top spot in total units shipped, but both IBM and Dell have been growing at a faster pace of late.

Breaking out the Itanium server segment does not help HP's cause. Intel's 64-bit product continues to be punished by slow adoption rates. What was once billed as a "twenty-year" design appears to be growing long in the tooth before it ever really arrived.

HP, however, is less concerned about OEM adoption for Itanium and more worried about how it fairs as a PA-RISC replacement. And benchmark-to-benchmark against Power4 or UltraSparc, Itanium is doing rather well. Having a host of OEMs selling Itanium kit would help keep chip and component costs down, but that would just be gravy for HP at this point. It's performance that matters.

The performance of the new 8-way and 16-way systems is of particular importance to HP. CEO Carly Fiorina has been talking a lot lately about the death of midrange Unix. IBM and Sun seem content to bill their versions of Unix as the OS of choice on midrange kit for some time, but HP has all guns blazing around Windows and to a lesser degree Linux in this market.

HP will take care of its current Unix customers. It has the last couple revs of PA-RISC on the way and is merging Tru64 and HP-UX. Still, you get the sense that HP wants to push Unix toward the high-end as much as possible. That is, of course, where its Superdome system shines.

The rx7620 starts at $23,735, and the rx8620 starts at $62,730.

HP also has a refreshed 4-way box - the rx4640 - available, starting at $15,869.

Along with the Unix kit, HP is touting the ProLiant DL140 server. This system is set to arrive by mid-November as an option for small and medium-sized businesses. The kit starts at $1,299 and runs either Windows, Red Hat or SuSE. HP also plans to make it available as a node in its pre-packaged cluster products.

To that end, HP has two new Linux clusters on tap for December. The XC3000 and XC6000 clusters are similar to what IBM and Dell also offer as a way to get a technical compute system up and running with as little hassle as possible. A 34-processor configuration of the XC3000 starts at $171,500.

HP offers both its 32bit ProLiant systems and 64bit Integrity products as options in the clusters. The higher-end XC6000 systems use Quadrics Elan3 interconnect and the XC3000 systems run on Myricom's Myrinet interconnect. ®

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