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HP's great cloud server cattle roundup with Foxconn begins

Pet carriers not wanted for whitebox stampede

Think servers, you think Hewlett-Packard – the world’s number-one by market share.

HP makes $3bn a quarter on such machines; by virtue of owning Compaq, HP claims it made the industry’s first PC server, the SystemPro in November 1989.

Aside from some claims on software and cloud, HP’s history is as original equipment maker (OEM).

Yet, HP has introduced a new server line untouched by this OEM’s own manufacturing plants and that bears the HP crest: the HP Cloudline rack servers.

Cloudline is built by Foxconn, the Taiwanese contract manufacturer better known for stuffing iPads, iPhones, Kindles, Playstations and Xboxes into the eager hands of the world’s consumers. HP announced the Foxconn hook up in April 2014.

Meg Whitman’s firm denies it’s outsourced Cloudline design and manufacture to Foxconn, but it effectively has. HP brings its understanding of "customer requirements" to the Foxconn relationship, it tells us. So what exactly is going on?

Part of the answer lies in what’s been delivered: server sleds for memory and storage rich apps – the CL 7300, 7100 and 2200 – and two 1U, 2P servers for memory and storage-rich applications that deliver “efficient, front-end web performance".

Efficiency is the key, not grace and HP draws the distinction between Cloudline and its flagship server line, ProLiant.

Cloudline has had the ProLiant features stripped out. Gone are Smart Array controllers, OneView, the HP ROM and BIOS and there’s no hot-pluggable backplane.

Cloudline will work with other makers’ systems – firmware from, say, Seagate or Hitachi on storage – rather than trying to get you to use the HP glue.

What you are getting is interchangeability: Cloudline has been build in accordance with the Facebook’s Open Compute Project – for a system to use “industry standard” interfaces.

But the good thing about that old HP stack was that while you were tied into HP’s management software or BIOS, you were reasonably guaranteed things would work.

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