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HP counters Intel's 'Montvale' omerta with love

Still on the horse

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If anyone should be excited about Intel's new Itanium chip, it's HP. And, in fact, the Palo Alto powerhouse is giddy as can be over "Montvale" even though the processor appears underwhelming by most metrics.

HP reckons that El Reg needs a spanking for grumbling about the Montvale release. Intel has shipped a part that at 1.66GHz comes in just a hair faster than yesteryear's 1.60GHz chips. True enough, customers will find faster front side buses and some high-end reliability and power management features, but, come on, it's GHz that matters, right?

Well, no, according to HP.

The company rightly argues that customers buying RISC/EPIC systems don't spend a ton of time worrying about processor clocks. Instead, they center on the total package. (HP, of course, loves to go up against IBM with TPC benchmarks to prove just how fast its chip are, which undermines the "clocks don't matter" argument. But let's not dwell on that since we doubt HP will be TPCing against IBM's Power6 systems anytime soon.)

Anyway, HP plans to slot Montvales into its low- and mid-range boxes this month. That's the rx2660, rx3600, rx6600, rx7640 and rx8640. In December, HP will pop Montvales into the hulking Superdome gear and the far more compact BL860c blade.

Along with the silicon upgrade, HP has made some other tweaks to its Integrity family of Itanium-based servers. Customers will find that HP's Integrated Lights-Out 2 (iLO 2) management technology previously available only on low-end gear will now stretch across the entire Integrity line, including Superdomes. This will give HP's hardware portfolio a common look and feel since the ProLiants an BladeSystem units are already on iLO 2.

Sticking with the power theme, HP has released Insight Power Manager as a complement to the existing Thermal Logic tool on Integrity boxes. Together, customers can use this technology "to monitor and regulate server power and switch power states as needed. The result is reduced server power and cooling overhead across the data center," according to HP.

For its Non-Stop gear, HP wants to remind the world that it has released some plugins for Eclipse. This is part of an effort to modernize the Non-Stop platform by making it easier to write Java and C++ applications for the hardware.

In its most recent quarter, HP boosted Itanium server revenue by 71 per cent. Still, it's high-end server business saw sales drop overall, as HP has yet to close the gap from lost PA-RISC and Alpha machine sales. HP has proven the most successful Itanium vendor by a large margin and posted its best results to date on the back of the dual-core Montecito flavor of Intel's 64-bit chip.

It remains to be seen if Montvale will be strong enough to keep this momentum going. Customers may be inclined to hold out for next year's Tukwila version of Itanium that boasts major enhancements such as an integrated memory controller and revamped interconnect.

In the meantime, IBM will be outfitting its Unix server line with the speedy Power6 chips in 2008, while Sun plans on releasing the new Rock family of high-end chips late next year.

Intel didn't make much of a fuss about Montvale's release, which did HP little help. Still, the company remains committed to the chip.

"We made a bet and said we would go with a more standard set of processors," said Michelle Weiss, a VP at HP. "In five years, you'll have to tell me who has economics (to produce their own chips). I'd say we've got a pretty shot at proving we picked the right horse."®

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