HP Rolls Out New Opteron, Xeon Servers
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
With LinuxWorld starting this week, and a lot of bad press last week as Carly Fiorina departed the company, executives at Hewlett-Packard are probably more than thankful to have some product announcements for the media to focus on. This week HP will roll out Intel's new "Irwindale" Xeon DP chips into its ProLiant line, as well as new ProLiants based on rival Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron processors.
Last February, just after Intel had divulged that its "Nocona" Xeon MP would support essentially the same 64-bit memory extensions used by AMD in its Opteron processors, HP announced that the ProLiant DL145, a two-way Opteron machine with many of the same features as the 32-bit Xeon-based DL140, except that it used the Opteron chips, carried a slight premium, and offered anywhere from 30 to 40 percent better performance. A few months later, HP rolled out the ProLiant 585, a four-way Opteron machine very similar to the ProLiant 580, which uses 32-bit Xeon MP processors. This week, HP is getting even more aggressive about putting Opterons into its X86 servers, and is rolling out a two-way ProLiant 385 as well as Opteron-based blade servers for its BladeSystem chassis.
While the DL145 is a decent computer and is suitable for people who want a lot of flops and not much more, is it not a small business workhorse like two-way, 2U servers are. According to Paul Miller, vice president of marketing for HP's Industry Standard Server group, the company has sold over 2 million of the DL380 machines in the past four generations. And even though the DL380 G4 supports the 64-bit-capable Nocona Xeon DP processors from Intel, Miller says many customers have told HP they want the Opteron performance of the DL145, but they want the expandability and systems management features that are in the DL380. Hence, the DL385 is being announced. The exact feeds and speeds of the machine are unclear as we go to press, but presumably it will support the dual-core Opteron processors when AMD releases them later this year. In a base configuration, the DL385 will cost $2,899.
Further on the Opteron front, HP is making good on its promise to deliver blade servers for its BladeSystems based on the Opterons chips. The BL25p and BL35p blades are very similar to the existing Xeon-based BL20p and BL30p blades, and, in fact, plug into the same chassis and can even be mixed and matched in the same chassis. Moreover, says Miller, because of the software compatibility of the Opteron and Xeon processors, a Windows or Linux instance running on an Opteron blade can fail over to an instance of the same operating system running on a Xeon blade, or visa versa. "HP is what we call chipnostic," he says with a laugh. "We are seeing customers adopt the Opteron chip because of the better performance it gives on certain applications. Some applications have advantages on Xeon, some on Opteron. We do both, and Dell doesn't."
The BL25p is a two-way blade that can use the existing 2.4 GHz Opteron 250 processor with an 800 MHz HyperTransport bus speed or the new 2.6 GHz Opteron processor with a 1 GHz HT link. Both Opterons have 1 MB of L2 cache memory on chip. The BL25p blade server can have up to 16 GB of main memory and can have two 300 GB hot-plug SCSI disk drives on it. The blade has a dual port Fibre Channel mezzanine card that provides 2Gbps links to storage area networks. The blade also has an embedded Smart Array 6i Plus Ultra3 RAID controller embedded in it for disk mirroring on the blade. The blade, like all other HP blades and most of its servers, has an Integrated Lights Out service processor and system management software. The base BL25p blade costs $3,399.
The BL35p blade is also a two-way server, but it is made for denser environments. Last year, HP rolled out the BL30p Xeon-based blade, which could cram up to 96 servers into a standard 42U rack; the company did this by taking off the SCSI disks on the blades, which allowed it to put 16 instead of 8 blades in a single 6U chassis. The Opteron-based BL35p blade takes the same approach, only is uses the 2.4 GHz Opteron 250 processor. This skinnier Opteron blade can have up to 8 GB of main memory and two 60 GB ATA disk drives. The base BL35p costs $2,899.
While HP is hot to talk about its new Opteron products, it has not forgotten about its Xeon-based products in the least. To that end, the entry uniprocessor ProLiant ML110 G2, which is a tower server, has been beefed up with a 2.8 GHz Celeron or 3.2 GHz Pentium 4 processor (not a Xeon), plus PCI-Express I/O and an optional ILO card. HP is also rolling out a new entry uniprocessor tower server, the ML310, which offers the same processors, either PCI-X or PCI-Express peripherals, and hot-plug RAID. HP is putting a 3.06 GHz Celeron in the DL320 G3 uniprocessor server, which is a 1U rack-mounted machine that now has two PCI-X slots and the option of using SCSI or ATA disks. The ML370 G4 two-way tower server will get the new Irwindale 64-bit Xeon with the 2 MB of L2 cache as well as PCI-Express peripherals. The BL20p G3 blade server will be beefed up using the new 3.6 GHz Nocona chips (not yet Irwindale) as part of this week's announcements. Finally, the DL360 G4 and DL380 G4 servers will get Irwindale chips running at 3.6 GHz. Memory on both of these machines is being expanded up to 12 GB as well.