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HP out and proud with 8-socket server beast

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HP has jumped back into the beefy 8-socket x86 server game with the new ProLiant DL785 G5.

The system will initially run on quad-core Opteron chips from AMD. HP pitches the server as a database and virtualization darling, since it offers a ton of horsepower along with vast amounts of memory. HP's willingness to produce an 8-socket server seems to confirm that x86 customers are showing interest in the larger systems more common in the Unix/RISC realm.

The DL785 won't ship until May, perhaps reflecting AMD's ongoing issues with supplying four-core Opterons to key customers. The 7U system will support up to 256GB of memory through a whopping 64 memory slots. HP plans to support 4GB DIMMs now and will add support for 8GB DIMMs later.

The system also boasts 11 I/O slots. A future version of the box will bring an upgrade option to support HTX and PCIe I/O slots. And the server has room for 16 hard disks.

HP once dabbled in the 8-socket x86 market only to give up on the idea in 2005. Today, Sun Microsystems, IBM and Fujitsu are the only major x86 server that can stretch to 8-sockets.

Historically, customers have bought loads of one- and two-socket x86 servers and a significant amount of four-socket units. The eight-socket market, however, has proved slow going, as noted by HP and Dell's decision to boycott such products.

But it's now looking like memory-hungry software such as databases and virtualization software along with improving x86 system technology are creating a demand for the larger hardware. Such fat boxes should just keep eating into the traditional stronghold of Unix servers.

The HP system seems rather tubby at 7U, since Sun, for example, offers a similar box at 4U, although HP does appear to offer a few more expansion slots.

The HP server will start at $17,000. ®

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