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HP's Nehalem-EX iron set for June arrival

Beastie boxes

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No two-socket for you

As far as El Reg is aware, HP is not going to offer a two-socket Nehalem-EX beastie box, but it certainly could do this, perhaps kicking out a special rack node for HPC shops using the Xeon 6500s and lots of memory (more than the two-socket Xeon 5600 can support) or a general-purpose Xeon 7500 machine that also has more memory than the ProLiant DL360 G7 and DL380 G7 machines can deliver.

The DL580 G7 is said to support eight small-form factor disk bays and five PCI-Express 2.0 slots, with mezzanine cards to add lots more I/O. It will probably sport four Gigabit Ethernet ports and may even have native 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports (maybe one or two) on the mobo as an option.

The DL980 G7 is HP's first eight-socket Xeon-based box since 2005, when the company ditched its ProLiant DL740 machines (4U) and DL760 G2 (7U) using the F8 "Lightning" chipset created by Compaq way back in the late 1990s for the Pentium 4 Xeon MP chips and the ProLiant 8500 servers. HP did jump back with bigger x64 boxes in March 2008 with an Opteron 8300-based machine called the ProLiant DL785, which weighed in at a fat 7U and looked a lot like the DL760 G2, except it was not based on a Compaq chipset and Xeon CPUs.

The ProLiant DL980 G7 server looks like it is going to be a doubled up DL580 G7 in terms of processing sockets (up to eight) and memory (up to 128 sticks), and it is very likely that the machines use the same motherboards with the same PCI-Express 2.0 peripherals slots hanging off one of the boards. The rumor is that the DL980 G7 will be in a slightly taller 8U chassis and have the same eight drive bays as the DL580 G7.

There has been no talk of possibly larger Nehalem-EX beastie boxes from HP, but theoretically, it is possible that the company could have a variant of the sx3000 chipset created for its Superdome 2 servers that is compatible with the Nehalem-EX chips. If so, HP could deliver a 16-socket blade box very similar to the Superdome 2 design, and even push on up to larger 32-socket or 64-socket designs. There is a question mark hovering above the real-world scalability of Windows or Linux on such a big Xeon 7500 box, but it the software will never scale if the hardware is not there.

So when are these two boxes expected? Before the end of June, sources say. No word at all on pricing or what future Nehalem-EX blade servers HP has cooking down in its engineering labs in Houston, Texas. But you can bet there are probably going to be blade boxes that scale from two to four and maybe even eight sockets as they blades snap together, side-by-side, just like the Integrity Itanium 9300 blades that came out in April. The engineering work was already partly done after all, once the Integrity blades were done. They all would use the same Boxboro chipset, memory subsystems, and I/O. ®

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