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HP leads pack with Istanbul iron

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Server maker Hewlett-Packard advanced to the pole position in the x64 server race this morning as it launched a slew of new iron, some using Advanced Micro Devices' new six-core "Istanbul" Opterons 2400 and 8400 series processors announced yesterday and others rounding out the new ProLiant and BladeSystem machines that came out concurrent with the four-core "Nehalem EP" Xeon processors at the end of March.

In March, HP rolled out 11 new ProLiant Generation 6 servers sporting the Nehalem EPs, and today, the company is putting another three Nehalem boxes into the field as well as seven machines that support the Istanbuls.

Rather than just plunk the Istanbuls into the existing ProLiant G5 servers, whose chipsets do support the processors, HP has taken the technologies it rolled into the two-socket Nehalem EP machines in the G6 series and created a whole new Opteron lineup. These G6 technologies include dynamic power capping and other ThermalLogic tech that was once only in its BladeSystem blade servers.

Lots of systems sensors to measure performance, heat, and power consumption of server components; high efficiency and common power supplies; 6 GB/sec SAS disk controllers; and the new ProLiant Onboard Administrator, which is the merging of the Integrated Lights Out (iLO) service processor inside blade chassis and rack and tower servers and the Web console that used to be only on blades.

But don't get the wrong idea. The new Opteron-based servers will technically support both quad-core "Shanghai" Opterons, which had their prices cut dramatically on May 25 ahead of the Istanbul launch, as well as the Istanbul chips. And HP will continue to sell ProLiant G5 machines configured with Shanghai processors if that is what customers want.

AMD wants the Opteron processor to span a large range of performance and price points and move across two-socket, four-socket, and larger servers as it tries to take on Intel. With its Nehalem EP processors restricted to uniprocessor and two-socket boxes, AMD will probably have a significant advantage on four-socket and eight-socket servers. Intel's "Dunnington" Xeon 7400s have the advantage beyond this, with a few vendors - IBM, NEC, and Unisys being the key ones - building Xeon boxes that span up to 16 sockets.

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