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Hardware Today: HP Server Snapshot

Tuesday Mar 8th 2005 by Drew Robb

HP continues to streamline its server lines, consigning the HP 9000 and AlphaServers to history in favor of a future filled with ProLiant, Integrity, and NonStop servers.

For the past three years, HP has been the leader of the pack in terms of worldwide server shipments. Its strategy now is to maintain its position with the addition of greater manageability and virtualization features as well as the streamlining of its many product lines under fewer umbrellas. The winning brands are ProLiant, Integrity and NonStop; the casualties are AlphaServer and HP 9000. The latter products are at the end of their respective lives and are being folded into the 64-bit Integrity line.

"We are moving away from proprietary to standards-based servers based upon ProLiant, Integrity and NonStop," said Kate O'Neill, enterprise and storage servers portfolio manager at HP. "This simplifies things for our customers and frees them from the burden of additional personnel and services costs."

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By far, HP's strongest server line is the ProLiant. According to IDC, it dominates the x86 market and brings in nearly one third of the revenue. In 2004, the company increased its shipments by 19.1 percent and revenue by 13.8 percent year-over-year.

Recent enhancements to the many faces of ProLiant are numerous. The grid below highlights the server line and links to the details. As would be expected, the changes center around the latest Celeron and Pentium 4 processors, PCI-Express, more cache, and greater manageability. For example, a 2.8-GHz Celeron or Pentium 4 3.2-GHz processor, PCI-Express support, and a remote management card have been added to the ProLiant ML110 G2 server. The ProLiant DL320 G3 is a 1U server that now includes a Celeron 2.93-GHz or up to a Pentium 4 3.6-GHz processor with 1 MB of L2 cache and two PCI-X slots.

Hewlett-Packard's Server Lines at Glance

  ProLiant Integrity NonStop BladeSystem Other Servers
Description Intended for small- to medium-scale applications and databases on the front end and the edge of the network Positioned for large-scale, mission-critical databases and applications Designed to meet the need for 24/7 availability, linear scalability, and real-time computing A virtualized, automated environment for managing a pool of resources High-performance servers for specific platform architectures and operating systems
Processor Type x86: Xeon DP, MP, P4, Opteron Intel Itanium-2 (Madison) 9M processors, mx-2 dual processor module NonStop: MIPS R14000 and MIPS R12000 (moving to Itanium-2) Intel Xeon, AMD Opteron 200, DP Intel Xeon, MP Intel Xeon AlphaServers: Alpha;
HP 9000: PA-8700, PA8700+, PA-8800;
e3000: PA-8500, PA-8600, PA-8700;
Telco: PA-8600, PA-8700, P III, Xeon, Itanium-2 (Madison)
Processor Range ML300 Servers (Entry-Level): 1 and 2;
Other ML Servers: 2 and 4;
DL Servers: 1 to 8
Entry-Level: 1 to 2, 1 to 4, 1 to 8;
Midrange: 2 to 16, 2 to 32;
Superdome (High-End with Itanium-2 mx-2): 2 to 16, 2 to 32, 6 to 128
Up to 4080 processors 1, 2 and 4 processors AlphaServers: Entry-Level: 1 and 2;
Midrange: 4 and 8;
High-End: 8 to 64;
Supercomputer: Up to 4096.

HP 9000: Entry-Level: 1, 1 to 2, 1 to 4, 2 to 4, 2 to 8;
Midrange: 8-32;
Superdome: 4 to 32, 4 to 64, 12 to 128;

Pre-configured 05 Series: 2, 4

e3000 Servers: N/A

Telco Servers: 1 to 4 processors
Operating Systems Windows, Linux All: HP-UX 11i, OpenVMS, Windows Server 2003, Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS35
Entry-Level also supports SUSE
High-End: 128-way Superdome requires HP-UX 11i-v2
NonStop Kernel microkernel-based OS Windows, Linux AlphaServers: OpenVMS, Tru64, Red Hat, SUSE

HP 9000: HP-UX 11i

e3000 Servers: MPE/iX6

Telco Servers: HP-UX 11i, Windows, Linux
Servers ML300 Servers (Entry-Level): ML110, ML110-SATA, ML150, ML310, ML330, ML350, ML370;
Other ML Servers: ML530, ML570;

DL Servers: DL140, DL145 (Opteron), DL320, DL360, DL380, DL385 (Opteron), DL560, DL580, DL585 (Opteron), DL740, DL760
Entry-Level: rx1600-2, rx2620-2, rx4640-8;

Midrange: rx7620-16, rx8620-32;

High-End: Integrity Superdome-32, Integrity Superdome-64, Integrity Superdome-128
High End: S88000, S78000, S780

Midrange: S78, S7800

((Beginning April 30, the HP NonStop S86000 server and NonStop S76 family of servers will no longer be sold.)
BL20p (Xeon), BL25p (Opteron), BL30p (Xeon), BL35p (Opteron), BL40p (Xeon) AlphaServers Entry-Level: DS15, DS20L, DS25, TS15 (telco);
Midrange: ES45, ES47, ES80;
High-End: GS80, GS160, GS320, GS1280;
Supercomputer: SC45

HP 9000 Entry-Level: rp3410-2, rp3430-4, rp4440-8
Midrange: rp8420-32, rp7420-16;
High-End: HP 9000 Superdome 32,64, or 128-way;

e3000 Servers Customers are currently being migrated to other servers, particularly to the HP 9000 running HP-UX 11i.

Telco Servers cc2300, cc3300, cc3310, cs2600

The ProLiant line also includes plenty of Xeon-based models. The 2P ML370 G4, for example, includes up to two 3.6-GHz Intel Xeon processors with 2 MB of L2 cache, an 800-MHz front side bus, Intel's Extended Memory 64 Technology (EM64T) processor, and PCI-Express technology. The HP ProLiant BL20p G3 is a dual-processor Xeon-based blade server with 2 MB of L2 cache, storage-area network connectivity, up to 8 GB of PC 3200 DDR2 memory, and a 4-gigabit network interface card.

Most recently, HP brought AMD Opteron into the ProLiant blade server fold with the BL25p and BL35p models. In addition, the Opteron-based 2U DL385 is rack-optimized and combines better management and high-availability requirements to facilitate data center deployment.

"Some of our customers have realized a price/performance advantage by opting for the Opteron," said O'Neill. "Under certain workloads, it outperforms the Xeon."

>> Integrity Matters

Integrity Matters

In addition to keeping its ProLiant line fresh, HP continues to make over its Integrity server family. It has added faster Itanium 2 Madison processors, expanded the high-availability and disaster recovery features for HP-UX 11i and Microsoft Windows Server 2003, and integrated virtualization capabilities across multiple operating systems. It has also introduced pay-per-use features to Windows-based Integrity systems (i.e., additional resources can be added as needed by turning on an additional processor and paying only for what is used). HP plans to add blades to its integrity line in the near future.

"Integrity blades are being introduced, as some customers want Itanium performance or HP-UX functionality in blade servers," said O'Neill.

The flagship Integrity product is the Superdome, which has been running on Itanium 2 for several releases now. The Superdome is aimed at large-scale mission-critical workloads. The top-of-the-line model on Integrity uses the 1.6 GHz Itanium 2 processor with up to 9 MB of L3 cache or mx2 dual-processor modules. It can run HP-UX 11i v2, Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition, and Linux. An OpenVMS version is scheduled to be released by early 2006.

Another big shift in the Integrity world is the phase-over of OpenVMS from AlphaServer to Integrity. This is not a minor announcement to appease a few customers. The OpenVMS/Alpha franchise represents about $2 billion in annual revenue from hardware, software, and services for HP, so much care is going into Integrity to make sure this loyal user base remains in the fold.

The HP NonStop arena doesn't have nearly as much momentum. Although it is still MIPS-based, it won't be for much longer. Again, Itanium 2 is the preferred processor.

According to O'Neill, a NonStop Itanium release is scheduled for the middle of the year.

A key part of HP's strategy, and one it believes differentiates it from its competitors, is a focus on value-added elements aimed at better manageability.

Meanwhile, HP has gone out of its way to ease the migration from Alpha and HP 9000 to Integrity. It has developed code merges so customers can run HP-UX on either the HP 9000 or Integrity server. The transition of VMS users from Alpha to Integrity is said to be similarly painless.

"OpenVMS on Integrity is a case of seamlessly assimilating a new processor, not using a high-tech shoehorn to force an old architecture into an ill-fitting shoe," said Bob Gezelter, a software consultant from Flushing, New York who has tested the new platform.

HP expects the 9000 and AlphaServer to stay in general use for some time and intends to support both through at least the end of the decade. It plans to continue selling the servers for the next year or two.

Management Value

A key part of HP's strategy, and one it believes differentiates it from its competitors, is a focus on value-added elements aimed at better manageability. The HP ProLiant Essentials Intelligent Networking Pack enables ProLiant servers to adapt to and change their network path to achieve maximum reliability and performance. Another feature, the HP Power Regulator, enables customers to save on server power and cooling costs by operating the CPU at lower frequency and voltage during periods of reduced activity.

"We also have the Systems Insight Manager that manages all servers with one view," said O'Neill. "It is designed for ProLiant and Integrity servers, and will be extended to NonStop later."

What about interoperability with non-HP servers? O'Neill says Systems Insight Manager can identify other systems on the network but does not manage them to the same degree as HP servers.

In terms of virtualization, the HP Server Migration Pack eases migration to virtual servers based on VMware or Microsoft Virtual Server. Similarly, HP's Virtual Server Environment (VSE) takes elements like utility pricing, workload manager, and partitioning, and integrates them for Integrity servers. The HP BladeSystem line, too, has been virtualized to simplify data center management.

"We have added features to manage blades for greater virtualization and resource allocation," says O'Neill. "HP will continue to add value to its servers by extending their manageability and virtualization capabilities."

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