HP's Nehalem-EX iron set for June arrival
HP will launch its first wave of "beastie boxes" based on Intel's "Nehalem-EX" Xeon 7500 processors later this month, according to sources familiar with HP's plans.
There are three months when server makers typically launch products: March, June, and September. And it looks like June is shaping up to be a very busy month for the big server players — particularly the king of the server hill, Hewlett-Packard.
As El Reg previously reported, HP turned up at the Nehalem-EX launch event in San Francisco this spring, showing off some machines without covers and labels, and it wouldn't say much about its plans for this eight-core beast of a processor. Most likely, HP didn't want to overshadow the Integrity line of "Tukwila" Itanium 9300 blade machines it debuted at the end of April, a month after Intel's Xeon 7500 was trotted out.
(You can read about these blade boxes here, get the initial feeds and speeds there, and get more details on pricing of the high-end, 16-socket Superdome 2, which isn't shipping until October, here. Presumably, there are 32- and maybe even 64-socket versions of the Superdome 2 machines, lashing together two or four of the Superdome 2 blade chassis together using the sx3000 chipset's crossbar. After all, HP needs a big bad Unix box to compete with IBM and Oracle/Fujitsu big iron).
At the moment, the market for machines with four or eight sockets based on the x64 architecture is diminishing, but with server virtualization now becoming good enough to support database and mail server workloads, there could be a resurgence of bigger box sales. And the Nehalem-EX processors aim to fill that need for Linux, Windows, and presumably Solaris-on-x64 workloads. HP-UX has not been ported to x64 processors, and HP has said repeatedly that it is not interested in doing so because it already gave its HP-UX, OpenVMS, and NonStop customers the forced march to Itanium. Despite the unaggressive roadmap for the Itanium chips, Integrity customers will probably be happy with what HP is doing in the Itanium front.
In the wake of the Superdome 2 and Integrity blade server announcement in April, HP cut the price on HP-UX 11iv3 for the Itanium 9300-based systems, charging based on the processor socket instead of the core and at a rate that chops software fees in half. Intel is charging basically the same price for Xeon 7500 chips as it does for Itanium 9300s, and with so many common parts in the servers, HP says it can chop the cost of a Superdome system by around 40 percent. This may be enough to preserve its customers against an IBM and Oracle/Fujitsu onslaught. We'll see.
HP's Integrity backdrop position, no doubt, is the same that IBM has used for more than a decade: if you don't want a proprietary system (like IBM's mainframes and AS/400s), then what about a Power-based box running AIX or Linux? And if that doesn't work, what about an x64 box running Windows or Linux? HP has the ProLiant card it can play if it starts losing an Integrity shop, and a fleshed out Xeon 7500 lineup of rack and blade servers are needed at this point for customers who need more processing oomph, memory capacity, and I/O bandwidth than a two-socket ProLiant box using Intel's six-core Xeon 5600s or Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron 6100s can. Which is why HP's future Nehalem-EX beastie boxes are strategically and tactically important. HP needs something that smells a bit like Integrity but is an x64 box.
The DL580 and DL980 boxes are the first batch of Nehalem-EX beastie boxes that are coming out of HP, and they are rack-based designs whose goal is to catch falling Integrity customers as well as give ProLiant shops with burgeoning Windows and Linux workloads a place to grow.
The word on the street is that the DL580 G7 server will be a four-socket box in a 4U chassis that uses Intel's 7500 series "Boxboro" chipset and supports 64 memory slots. So with 16 GB DDR3 memory sticks, that's 1 TB of memory in a 4U box. The two-socket ProLiant DL360 G7 and DL380 G7 servers top out at a relatively small 192 GB in their 2U chassis. The DL580 offers 2.7 times the memory for every socket of computing, and it needs to partly because of the difference between a six-core (Xeon 5600) and an eight-core (Xeon 7500) processor and also because of the buffered memory architecture in the Nehalem-EX designs.
The Nehalem-EX processors come in a bunch of different flavors, including Xeon 6500s that only work in two-socket machines and that are designed predominantly for supercomputing customers who want lower heat, lots of flops, and low prices and the Xeon 7500s, which come in versions two, four, or eight socket boxes that can link nodes together gluelessly. (Meaning, using the Boxboro chipset and not a chipset/router to link multiple nodes into a single system image). Both the Xeon 6500 and 7500 processors come in SKUs with four, six, or eight cores activated on the chip. The DL580 G7 is not aimed at HPC shops in as much as it has four processor sockets, and it can be thought of as the workforce of the HP's x64 midrange server lineup.
Next page: No two-socket for you
Interesting hp response.
When I prod the usual sources in hp they go all stoney-faced and just say "The new Nehalem EX servers have been released now they have passed lab testing", which begs the question did hp have to do more testing than say Dell, or did hp have an issue getting the kit through tests? I can't see it being that hp were short of lab resource seeing as the Xeon kit must be priority numero uno for hp.
Another funny story - we have a project looking at Slowaris x64 and Red Hat on ProLiant for replacing some of our SPARC Oracle instances, and I was wanting to get some next gen Opteron kit in at a future date to see how Slowaris x64 and Oracle could take advantage of the AMD chips compared to Nehalem EX. But, out of the blue, I'm now dealing with queries from execs that want to know if the AMD option is viable "now that Oracle have dropped AMD"!!! Personally, I hope hp goes the full hog on the AMDs as I think Intel need someone like AMD to push/drag them along.
Fully expected a Matt Bryant post here and while I'm glad not to be disappointed, that wall of text is several times more than I'm interested in reading. Let me see if I can make my point a bit quicker...
I believe that HP is planning to release a 2-socket Nehalem-EX in later in the year. I have no information as to why this is, but I am happy to speculate.
The Nehalem-EX is launching with low clock speeds relative to the Westmere-EP. It is a much more expensive processor, so HP could be waiting to make sure it is a commercial success before launching a 2-socket offering. A server that costs a lot more than a DL380 G7 but underperforms for most workloads will not be overly popular.
I want to like the AMD 6100, but the clock speeds are too low and some early test reports seem to confirm exactly what I was concerned about: parallelism be damned, it's so much slower than the Intel 5600 series for most workloads but particularly those that only need 1-4 cores. The AMD might hit some sweet spots for databases that can utilize parallelism; it does have more memory slots per socket than the Intel 5600 which makes larger memory footprints more affordable.
But I'm betting on Intel to continue to own the 2 socket performance crown and to decisively capture 4 socket as well. I don't particularly like Intel, but I buy what works. Like I said previously, I'm not sure what the value proposition will be for the 2 socket Nehalem-EX. Once they get it to near 3ghz, then I'm interested. I've got too much stuff that needs one really damn fast thread. Sorry.
"It's not showfriends, it's showbusiness."
TPM's fixation strikes again!
Only TPM could turn an article on ANY hp product into an attack on Itanium. First he implies hp held back the Nehalem EX kit so as not to overshadow the Itanium blades announcement, when hp has previously not given a hoot about coinciding Xeon and Itanium launches. This first supposition is blown out of the water by the fact that hp were happily announcing ProLiant G7 kit at the same time as launching the new Itaniums. Fact is, it just looks like hp needed more time to get their EX kit sorted, so Maclovin is right when he says hp are chasing Dell. I'd be much more interested in maybe some inside info on why hp were so slow to get the EX kit out the door rather than listening to more of TPM's Itanium-bashing, but then TPM's inside info seems very limited to IBM only, and I suppose he had to pad out his article somehow.
Then we get the bizarre idea that the whole ProLiant strategy is all about stopping Integrity customers defecting (in TPM's deleriums he probably dreams they are going to buy Power-AIX instead)! Didn't TPM get the news? The hp ProLiant range is the single biggest selling server range - period! It is not some after-thought to prop up Integrity customers. I know that TPM is steeped in the old IBM tradition of "everything props up mainframe", but trying to staple that model onto other vendors is just wishful sillyness. The new EX kit are about maintaining and expanding hp's lead in the x64 space, the fact that they share components with the Integrity range is just a bonus for the Integrity boys as the economies of scale reduce the cost of making the Integrity servers.
But the funniest line of all was where TPM implied hp sales might use the old IBM sales mantra of "try and sell a 'proprietary paltform' (mainframe) first, then try AIX or Linux on Power, then x64" - a quick chat with any hp salegrunt over the last ten-odd years would have told him that hp have always preached AGAINST such platform-driven selling, and have been very happy to tell us customers all about it as it has helped them dethrone IBM. One of the reasons hp have been more successful with us (and probably why they have won other accounts over) is because they want to know about our business and our requirements rather than just throw platforms at us. I have had projects where we have sat down with the vendors and mapped out the problem, then asked what they suggested to meet the requirement. With IBM it is just about always a Power push, with x64 as a grudging inclusion if we ask. With hp, I can ususally get as many options as I like - Windows or Linux on x64 or Integrity, or hp-ux, and all options are available right up to a proof of concept level if required.
If anything, it has been my experience that many hp resellers are quicker to back the Wintel option ratehr than NonStop or hp-ux, as they usually have more inhouse skills and experience if we require any services, whereas with hp-ux (and Linux and OpenVMS) we usually just do it ourselves. It also seems to be a faster sales cycle for them, with more ProLiant kit actually here in the UK rather than having to be pulled from Germany as our Integrity kit seems to be. It was similar when I did work in the States, and I'm assuming the efficiency drives of Fiorina and Hurd won't have added an extra layer of hp distribution to change that. Maybe TPM should get out and speak to a few customers?