HP forges 32-socket Itanium iron

Beyond Superdome

Superdome silence

HP has been pretty vague about when to expect the SD2-32s machine, and it doesn't want to talk about the SD2-64s box at all. "We expect to start shipping in the summer of this year," Bresniker tells El Reg, referring to the 32-socket Superdome 2 machine.

Bresniker was not at liberty to talk about the SD2-64s top-end Superdome 2 machine, but Lorraine Bartlett, vice president of worldwide marketing, strategy, and operations for the BCS unit at HP, said that the release of the Poulson Itaniums in 2012 would be "an interesting data point". That implies, but does not confirm, that HP is waiting until the Poulsons are out to ship the biggest machine, which would allow it to field a 512-core machine using the eight-core Poulson chips. Or to get 256 cores into the field with an SD2-32s. Go figure.

No matter what HP does and does not say publicly, it is showing customers that a 64-socket box is in the works. Such as in this description of the Superdome 2 machines:

HP Superdome 2 Systems

HP's Superdome 2 systems lineup (click to enlarge)

The SD2-64s machine uses the sx3000 chipset and the five QPI links in the Tukwila and Poulson Itaniums to lash four chassis of eight-blade server nodes together to make a single system image with up to 8TB of main memory using 8GB DDR3 main memory sticks. Some of the QPI is eaten up linking the extra CPUs together, so the SD2-32s and SD2-64s machine top out at 96 external I/O slots, which is what the SD2-16s has. The big Superdome 2 machine has 192 PCI-Express slots and 128 10 GE ports, which is a lot of I/O connectivity.

That said, the Power 795 from IBM has 640 PCI-Express slots, and the M9000 from Oracle and Fujitsu has 288 slots. HP's Superdome 2 machines are heavy on the integrated 10GE networking and lighter on the peripheral slots, which is probably sensible in a converged world for networking for servers and storage.

One more thing that may not be obvious. While HP talks about how the Integrity product line supports its HP-UX as well as its OpenVMS and NonStop operating systems, the latter only run on specific machines. You cannot slap OpenVMS 8.4, the most current release, on just any Integrity machine, and in fact, it is only supported on the BL8X0 i2 blades.

Bresniker tells El Reg that OpenVMS 8.4 will span across all of the four blades in the most recent Tukwila blade servers, delivering 32-core scalability, and that customers who need more scalability than that can do VAXclusters lashing multiple blade boxes together. Clearly, OpenVMS does not know how to speak to the sx3000 chipset and hence cannot run on the Superdome 2 machine.

"Most OpenVMS customers do not need the scalability of a Superdome 2," says Bresniker. "Having the scalability to eight sockets on the blades is sufficient for their needs."

The same thing holds true of most of IBM's customers using the OS/400 (now known as IBM i) operating system. The vast majority of customers using this proprietary platform run on two-socket or four-socket boxes, with a small minority needing oomph beyond that. ®

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