The 8-socket server space has certainly never been the hottest sector in town. In fact, many of the top vendors don't even have a single 8-socket machine in their product portfolio.
"Last year, IDC estimated the 8-plus socket segment to account for about 5 percent of the x86 server revenue," said Jed Scaramella, an analyst at IDC (Framingham, Mass.). "However, this area of the server marketplace lacks participation from many of the Tier 1 vendors."
According to IDC, IBM (Armonk, N.Y.), holds a majority market share in the 8-socket space, with around 42 percent of the total. Some server giants, such as Dell (Round Rock, Texas), don't even attempt to serve this area.
By some indications, however, the lack of emphasis on 8-socket boxes may be changing. HP (Palo Alto, Calif.) has just entered this space with the AMD Opteron based ProLiant DL785 G5. (The G5 just stands for Generation Five.) According to Scaramella, rising customer demand for x86 machines with higher processing capability prompted this move.
"HP and IBM have slightly different hardware approaches to this space," he said. "IBM's x Series 3950 is actually a 4-socket building block that can scale up to a 32-socket configuration, though the average-sized configurations are usually 12 sockets. HP, on the other hand, is delivering a straight 8-socket machine."
HP Makes the Elite Eight
The DL785 G5 supports up to eight AMD Opteron 8300 series processors. These are available as either 2.2GHz or 2.3 GHz models. That's eight quad-core processors, for an impressive 32 cores. Each socket comes with a shared 2 MB L3 cache.
"This server does not replace anything in the HP lineup," said Hannah Lewis, product manager for HP ProLiant DL785 G5. "This is the first 8-socket platform we have offered."
The 7U rack server also provides plenty of memory. Up to 64 DIMM sockets of PC2-5300 DDR2 RAM at 667MHz are available. Maximum memory for this server is 256GB.
On the internal storage side, the DL785 can house up to 16 Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) drives capable handling up to 2.3 TB of internal storage. The server can be configured with no hard drives, if desired.
"The DL785 G5 supports three different hard drive sizes: 36GB, 72GB and 146GB drives," said Lewis.
She laid out two possible configurations for this HP 8-socket machine. The first configuration is priced at $17,000. It includes four 2.2 GHz AMD Opteron processors, 8GB of memory, an embedded Smart Array P400i controller and three power supplies. It does not include any hard drives. The second configuration, priced at $21,000, has four 2.3 GHz Opteron quad-core processors, with 16GB of memory, an embedded Smart Array P400i controller, three power supplies and no disks.
Competition and Target Markets
Obviously, this 8-socket server isn't aimed at the low end of the market. However, with the rise of multicore chips and the far greater processing capability they provide, the expectancy is that more small and mid-market companies will want to take advantage of more heavy-duty models without having to venture outside their comfort zone of x86 technology. The possibility of running everything on one relatively inexpensive Windows or Linux box and harnessing VMware to simplify the server infrastructure could well see the 8-socket marketplace heat up in the coming year.
For now, however, the focus of HP is primarily on the traditional home of Big Iron x86 boxes the enterprise. But virtualization is definitely making the machine more attractive to additional market segments.
"HP is aiming at two main customer targets," said Scaramella. "The DL785 G5 fits best with consolidation initiatives via virtualization, as well as with expanding enterprise class databases."
All this remains to be seen, however, as the DL785 is not on the market yet. Per HP's announcement, it will be generally available in May 2008. Once released, the machine will probably go head to head with the more heavy duty x86-based models from the likes of IBM and Sun Microsystems (Santa Clara, Calif.).
"The DL785 G5 competes with Sun's x4600 and IBM's x3950," said Lewis.
She believes the DL785 will succeed over the competition. Compared to the servers listed above, Lewis points to the 8-socket ProLiant as having greater internal expansion capacity that balances throughput with processing power, as well as its manageability capabilities, such as SIM, iLO2 and Insight Control, which are designed for simplified management and better control of the server environment. She also cites HP's history as a solution provider and the breadth of its partner relationships as reasons the DL785 will win bids over Sun and IBM.
IDC's Scaramella agreed that HP has done a good job of increasing the attractiveness of the DL785 via collaboration with major IT vendors.
"To this end as part of the launch of the 8-socket ProLiant DL785, HP has announced partnerships with VMware, Oracle, Microsoft, and SAP," he said.
|Processor Details||Up to 8 quad-core AMD Opteron 8354 processors (2.2 GHz)|
|Hard Drives||Up to 16 SAS drives (up to 2.3 TB of internal storage)|
|Operating Systems||Windows, Red Hat Linux, SUSE Linux, Solaris and VMWare|
|Configuration Options||$17,000, includes four 2.2GHz AMD Opteron processors, with 8GB of memory, embedded Smart Array P400i controller, three power supplies and no disks
$21,000, includes four 2.3GHz AMD Opteron processors, with 16GB of memory, embedded Smart Array P400i controller three power supplies and no disks.