Hardware Today: Hewlett-Packard Server Snapshot

Tuesday Nov 11th 2003 by Amy Newman

Our latest server snapshot dissects Hewlett-Packard's server lines. We peel away the overlap and navigate the sprawl to explain what sets a ProLiant apart from an AlphaServer, and everything in between.

At first glance, Hewlett-Packard's server lines appear confusing. A deeper look reveals the cause. HP's current collection of server families reflect the remnants of what were once four separate companies, each with its own extensive line of servers. Add those legacy systems to HP's own offerings, not to mention a server line that has spawned since the acquisitions, and you have products that span four processor types and eight operating systems. Half these are proprietary (OpenVMS, Tru64, HP-UX, and MPE/iX), and three of the four found their way to HP through acquisitions.

Hewlett-Packard's NonStop server line is one microcosm of the vendor's complex portfolio. Nonstop was originally developed by HP, then Tandem, which Compaq then acquired in 1997. When HP acquired Compaq in 2002, the line came full circle.

The AlphaServer has a similar story. It was originally developed to follow Digital Equipment Corp.'s venerable VAX line. The AlphaServer launched in 1992 as the end of VAX' 23-year-life-cycle loomed closer, and DEC wanted to be sure customers had a migration path. Compaq acquired DEC in 1998. When HP acquired Compaq in 2002, the AlphaServer line was added to the mix, as was Compaq's ProLiant line.

With this much product, it's no wonder that HP's server lines seem to simultaneously overlap and sprawl, blanketing Unix and Windows operating systems, and Intel and RISC processors. The servers are positioned as suitable for a bevy of enterprise functions, from the rugged carrier-grade servers to the purely proprietary NonStop servers to the industry standard ProLiant and highly scalable Integrity lines.

Externally, HP breaks down the servers by customer type (i.e., Small & Medium Business and Large Enterprise Business) with overlap when the servers are broken down by line.

Internally, HP's server resources are divided in a completely different fashion -- between the Industry Standard Server (ISS) group and Business Critical Services (BCS) group. Brian Cox, product line manager for HP's BCS group, told ServerWatch that the groups are split roughly along processor lines. The BCS group is responsible for the high-performance, mission-critical 64-bit servers with RISC and PA-RISC processors. The ISS group oversees the 32-bit servers with Intel processors, primarily x86 on Xeon. The ProLiant series occupies much of its focus.

In late June of this year, HP launched its first new server line since the completion of its acquisition of Compaq. The Integrity line, like the ProLiant line, is Intel processor-based. Integrity servers contain an Itanium processor, however, and run the gamut from entry-level, single processor servers to a 64-processor Superdome server that can run Unix, Windows, and Linux simultaneously on a single system.

To its credit, HP's long-term road map paints a simpler picture. In the immediate wake of the 2002 merger, the vendor announced its plans for consolidation. With support for Tru64 ending in 2005, HP is following its intent to make HP-UX the only Unix option. It is also simplifying processor choices. Cox told ServerWatch that by 2010, all of HP's servers will be running on Intel processors.

As HP simplifies, several server lines are coming close to end-of-life. In cases where the products are still supported, we've opted to include them in this report, noting the recommended migration paths and providing links to where greater detail is available.

With such a wide range of servers, it's not surprising that HP owns about one-third of the server market, according to both Gartner and IDC. Gartner's most current quarterly server index put HP in the top spot based on server shipments, both worldwide and in each regions, with the exception of Japan.

The following chart breaks down HP's server lines, by brand and, where applicable, by subcategory within the brand. We left off pricing information, as in most cases HP does not provide general price ranges. Pricing information can be be obtained by contacting HP directly.

Hewlett-Packard's Product Lines

Description Industry standard servers for IA-32 architectures PA-RISC-based servers for HP-UX environments Itanium-based servers optimized for HP-UX, Windows, and Linux environments High-performance servers for OpenVMS, Tru64 Unix, and Linux environments NonStop2 e3000 Servers3, and Telco servers4
Processor Type Intel Xeon (MP and DP) and Pentium 4 PA-8700 and PA-8700+ Intel Itanium 2 processor Alpha NonStop: MIPS R14000 and MIPS R12000 (moving to Itanium)
e3000 Servers: Itanium 2
Telco Servers: PA-8500, PA-8600, PA-8700, Pentium III, Pentium 4
Processor Range tc and ML300 Servers (Entry-Level): 1 and 2
Other ML Servers: 2 and 4
DL Servers: 1 to 8
Entry-Level: 1, 1-2, and 1-4
Midrange: 2-8 and 2-16
Superdome (High-End): 16 to 64
Pre-configured 05 Series: 2, 4, and 8
Entry-Level: 1-2 and 1-4
Midrange: 2-8 and 2-16
Superdome (High-End): 2-16 to 6-64
Entry-Level: 1 and 2
Midrange: 4 and 8
High-End: 8 to 64
Supercomputer: Up to 4096
NonStop: Up to 4,080 processors
e3000 Servers: N/A
Telco Servers: 1 to 4 processors
Operating Systems Windows, Linux, and NetWare HP-UX11.0 and HP-UX 11i Entry-Level: HP-UX, Windows Server 2003, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux, OpenVMS
Midrange: HP-UX, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Windows Server 2003, OpenVMS,
High-End: HP-UX, Windows Server 2003, Linux
OpenVMS, Tru64, and Linux (Red Hat or SUSE) NonStop: NonStop Kernel microkernel-based operating system
e3000 Servers: MPE/iX5
Telco Servers: HP-UX, Windows, Linux
Servers tc and ML300 Servers (Entry-Level): tc2120, ML310, ML330, ML350, ML370;
Other ML Servers: ML530, ML570
DL Servers: DL320, DL360, DL380, DL560, DL580, DL740, DL7606
Entry-Level: rp2430, rp2470, rp5430, rp5470;
Midrange: rp7410, rp8400;
High-End: HP 9000 Superdome 16-way, HP 9000 Superdome 32-way, HP 9000 Superdome 64-way;
Pre-configured 05 Series: rp2405, rp5405, rp7405
Entry-Level: rx2600, rx4640, rx5670;
Midrange: rx7620, rx8620
High-End: Integrity Superdome 16-way, Integrity Superdome 32-way, Integrity Superdome 64-way
Entry-Level: DS10, DS15, DS20L, DS25
Midrange: ES45, ES47, ES80
High-End: GS80, GS160, GS320, GS1280
Supercomputer: SC45
NonStop: S86000, S76000, S7600, S76, S760
e3000 Servers: Customers are currently being migrated to other servers, particularly the HP 9000 running HP-UX 11i
Telco Servers: rp2450, rp5470 cc2300, cc3300, cc3310
1 As Alpha Servers near end of life HP will migrate customers to Integrity Server environment via its Alpha RetainTrust (ART) and AlphaServer Customer Assurance Programs (ACAP). HP is also currently preparing to release an update to assist customers migrating from Tru64 Unix to HP-UX 11i v2.
2 Nearing end of life, customers are currently being steered toward migrating to HP 9000 servers.
3 Fault-tolerant, highly customized servers
4 Carrier-grade (i.e., NEBS compliant) servers
5 Current customers are being migrated HP-UX, Windows, or Linux running on HP servers.
6 ProLiant server lines also include the ProLiant BL blade servers e-class and p-class as well as the ProLiant Essentials value packs, and ProLiant high availability cluster solutions.
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