HP offers new Opteron-based servers, blade servers

It also unveiled its first workstation based on the AMD chip

Hewlett-Packard Co. has unveiled a blade server based on Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s 32-/64-bit Opteron chip, as well as a 2U (3.5-in.-high) ProLiant server and a workstation that use the hybrid processor.

The announcement comes about a year after HP, which had moved toward an Intel-only line of servers after its acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp., announced that it would join Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM in supporting the hybrid processor.

"HP's strategy to innovate on top of standards allows us to offer 'chip-nostic' designs to our customers, allowing them to take advantage of the latest performance features and technologies," said Brad Anderson, senior vice president and general manager of industry-standard servers at HP. "These solutions offer a quick return on investment, especially in fast-growing areas like blades and Linux."

AMD introduced Opteron in 2003, saying the chip would give enterprise customers a smoother path to 64-bit computing since it can run both 32- and 64-bit applications. At that time, Intel Corp. and HP were banking on the 64-bit Itanium chip they had co-designed to become the industry standard for 64-bit computing. But the market for Itanium was slow to take off, in large part because applications had to be rewritten for optimum performance on the chip.

Once Opteron gained popularity, Intel moved to introduce its own 32-/64-bit Xeon chip last year, analysts said.

"First, this gives HP x86 customers another migration path to 64-bit computing," said Joe Clabby, an analyst at Boston-based Summit Strategies Inc. "Second, Opteron has been a very, very fast processor."

Clabby said AMD has been aggressive -- not only in pushing 64-bit computing for the x86 platform, but also in dual-core capability.

"Opteron is a high-performance x86 chip that's known to outperform Intel in certain instances," he said. "This thing is a real screamer, and they [AMD] are going to be out with their dual-core capability before Intel is out with its dual-core capability. Opteron at the workstation level makes an excellent workstation for Unix and Linux."

Clabby said the only issue with Opteron today is that it lacks official Windows server support. But that, he said, should be remedied by summer.

The fact that the server market will accept AMD technology has surprised much of the industry, said Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group in San Jose. "But the fact of the matter is it will," he said.

"The AMD stuff is certainly more than adequate, and what we've found is that the buyer takes the representation of the primary brand -- if it's a trusted brand -- as to whether or not the product is adequate for use. And since HP is using this particular technology, it actually validates it for the very buyer they want to approach," Enderle said.

He said HP can most likely offer a higher level of performance at a lower price. "When you're competing against Dell, you need every advantage you can get -- and since Dell doesn't offer AMD, this allows HP to provide an arguably better product at a lower price," Enderle said. "And IT is buying mostly on price now."

Enderle said HP's decision to use Opteron chips helps AMD a great deal because it provides AMD legitimacy in the corporate market and provides additional emphasis for AMD's brand and product in that market. "It also puts tremendous pressure on Dell and others in the segment to match Hewlett -Packard," he said.

The new Opteron-based systems from HP are:

  • The ProLiant BL25p dual-processor blade, which offers 2.6-GHz or 2.4-GHz Opteron processors, will be available at the end of March and priced starting at $3,399.
  • The ProLiant BL35p dual-processor blade with the 2.4-GHz Opteron processor is also expected to begin shipping in late March. It will be priced starting at $2,899.
  • The ProLiant DL385, a 2U, dual-processor system with 2.6-GHz or 2.4-GHz Opteron processors. It's expected to be available at the end of March and will be priced from $2,899.
  • The HP xw9300 Workstation, which is available now with pricing starting at $1,899.

HP also announced that it will begin shipping new ProLiant Essentials management tools. The ProLiant Essentials Intelligent Network Pack enables servers to dynamically change their network paths for improved performance and reliability and incorporates enhanced virus protection from HP's new Virus Throttle technology.

In addition, the new HP Power Regulator enables users to monitor and control CPU power according to demands. The new HP Server Migration Pack is aimed at making it easier for users to migrate to virtual servers based on VMware or Microsoft Virtual Server.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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