HP launches first Opteron blades, workstation

Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s (AMD's) Opteron processor will get a vote of confidence Monday when Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) adds four new systems to its Opteron product portfolio, including the company's first blade servers to be based on the 64-bit processor. HP's announcement comes as AMD is readying two new Opteron models, the 252 and 852, which are expected to be available within the next month.

HP's two blade systems, the ProLiant BL25p and BL35p, will begin shipping in March. That is several months behind schedule, but they are the first Opteron blades to be announced by a major vendor. IBM Corp. has hinted that it may bring an Opteron blade to market when AMD begins shipping its first dual-core Opteron systems in the second half of the year.

The BL35p is the smaller of the two systems. Based on the 2.4GHz Opteron 250 processor, it can support as many as 2 ATA (advanced technology attachment) hard drives and 8G bytes of memory. Sixteen of the BL35p servers fit into a 6U (26.67 cm) chassis.

The larger BL25p is available with either the Opteron 250 or the new 2.6GHz Opteron 252. It will be available with as much as 16G bytes of memory and can support 2 SCSI (small computer system interface) storage drives. HP's 6U chassis will be able to hold eight of the BL25p blades.

HP's two other new systems, the 2U (8.9 cm) ProLiant DL385 server and a workstation called the xw9300, will also come with the 200-series Opteron processors, giving the Palo Alto, California, computer maker the broadest portfolio of Opteron systems among major vendors, for the moment at least. Sun Microsystems Inc. is reported to be in the process of extending its Opteron offerings with a new line of systems, code-named Galaxy, that are being designed by Sun co-founder Andreas Bechtolsheim.

The growing level of interest in AMD's processors stems from the fact that certain types of applications tend to perform well with the Opteron architecture, which is designed to transfer data from memory to the processor as quickly as possible, said Paul Miller, vice president of marketing with HP. Database and custom-designed applications are likely to benefit from this design, as are applications that are run on machines with four processors or more, he said.

Though Miller declined to comment on how many Opteron systems his company has shipped to date, he said that sales of the systems were making a "material impact" on HP's business.

Opteron system sales, however, represent a small fraction of the worldwide server market. Just under 127,000 Opteron servers shipped in the first three quarters of 2004, the most recent period for which data is available from research company IDC.

AMD is not the only company announcing new processors on Monday. As previously reported, Intel Corp. is expected to announce new versions of its Xeon DP processors, which will have a larger, 2M byte, L2 cache.

AMD's Opteron 252 and the Opteron 852, which is designed for 4-processor and 8-processor systems, will have a faster 1GHz HyperTransport bus and will support the SSE3 software instructions, which will boost performance for graphics processing and scientific computing. AMD is also readying a 152 model for single-processor systems, which will be available as of April 30. All three processors will have a 2.6GHz clock speed, AMD said.

The HP xw9300 Workstation will be available Monday, priced starting at US$1,899. The company's new servers will ship at the end of March. Both the BL35p and the DL385 will be priced starting at $2,899. The BL25p will start at $3,399.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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