HP Targets SMB Shops with New Entry Servers
Published: April 2, 2008
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
With Dell waking back up in the server market, particularly in the entry X64 space where it still has some clout, building out a distribution channel, and making some moves in the blade server area now, too, Hewlett-Packard has to stay on its toes and continue rolling out new technology to keep enticing small and medium businesses to choose its ProLiant products over Dell's PowerEdge alternatives in tower, rack, and blade form factors.
Two servers that HP is adding this week will help the company sell against similar products launched by Dell two weeks ago and other entry products that Dell rolled out late last year. While HP is the top shipper of X64 servers overall and blows away all of the competition, even Dell, across all server sizes, Dell is no slouch in the entry server market in North America and has been particularly strong there in years gone by, just like Fujitsu-Siemens is a very tough competitor against HP for entry X64 servers in Europe and Japan.
HP is this week introducing two new ProLiant machines, one a single-socket rack machine and the other a two-socket blade server. The DL120 G5 is the rack server, and it is aimed at budget-conscious server buyers who nonetheless want a little processor and memory expandability in the boxes they buy. The DL120 G5 comes in a 1U form factor with room for two 3.5-inch disk drives, which can be either SAS or SATA units but which are not hot pluggable as in many other HP designs. (Hot plug disks require more electronics and packaging, and that costs more money.) The server's motherboard is based on Intel's "Bigby" 3210 chipset, which allows Celeron, Pentium, Core 2, and Xeon 3000 (a reworked Pentium 4 chip) to be plugged into the single socket. The chipset supports front side bus speeds ranging from 800 MHz to 1.33 GHz and single, dual, or quad-core processors. The entry chip in the DL120 G5 is a single-core 1.6 GHz Celeron with 512 KB of cache, but customers can scale up to a 3 GHz dual-core Xeon E3110 with 6 MB of cache or a quad-core X3210 running at 2.13 GHz and having 8 MB of cache. Unlike prior entry server and workstation chipsets, which used FB-DIMM main memory, the Bigby chipset supports DDR2 main memory running at 800 MHz. This particular server can span from 512 MB to 8 GB of main memory. The DL120 G5 has two PCI-Express slots, one x8 slot and one x4 slot, but customers who need a PCI-X slot can convert the x8 slot to this peripheral interface style. The machine comes with an integrated RAID 0/1 disk controller on the board.
Interestingly, customers can buy the machine with Windows or Linux preconfigured on the box. Microsoft's Windows Server 2003, Small Business Server 2003, and Windows Server 2008 versions are available for the DL120 G5; all the editions but Datacenter Edition are available. So is Red Hat's Enterprise Linux 4 or 5 and Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10.
With a base 1.6 GHz Celeron chip, 512 MB of memory, and a 160 GB disk, the DL120 G5 costs $908. (Officially, the base price is $1,199, but that is not what the HP store says as we go to press.) But don't think this machine's price can't scale up along with performance. With a quad-core Xeon X3210, 4 GB of memory, two 300 GB SAS drives, and still no operating system, the DL120 G5 costs $3,124. Add an entry Windows or Linux license to the machine, and you are talking close to $4,000 for a reasonable configuration.
HP does not have a single-socket blade server, and according to Steve Gillaspy, general manager for HP's BladeSystem product line, and at the moment he says that it probably does not make a lot of sense to deliver a single socket blade because customers can just put a single processor into a two-socket box. (Way back when, with the "QuickBlade" p-Class machines from the turn of the century, HP did offer a modestly powered single-socket X86 blade, and people crabbed that it did not have enough performance.) But I think that as cores are boosted inside of sockets, HP will eventually have to embrace a true, low-cost single socket blade, much as it has in rack-mounted area the DL120 G5.
For now, the entry blade server in the BladeSystem family, and one aimed squarely at the "Shorty" c3000 chassis for SMB customers, is the new ProLiant BL260c blade server, also announced this week. Like the DL180 rack-mounted server, the BL260c uses Intel's "San Clemente" 5100 chipset. This allows the blade to use much cooler DDR2 main memory instead of FB-DIMM memory used in other blade servers (including some from HP). While raw performance of DDR2 is not as good as FB-DIMM, heat is a big issue in densely packed blade configurations, so the tradeoff is a good one for most customers.
The ProLiant BL260c is a half-height blade server, and it comes in a single-socket, non-upgradeable configuration that has a single-core 1.86 GHz Xeon 445 processor. Customers who want to use a dual-core Xeon E6305 (1.86 GHz) or E6405 (2.13 GHz) chip can opt for these, but cannot also activate the second socket. Ditto for the three Xeon 3000 series workstation processors that can be plugged into this blade. (Why? These chips don't have symmetric multiprocessing electronics in them, so two of them cannot share memory across two sockets.) Xeon 5000 series chips, in dual-core or quad-core variants, have these SMP electronics, so you can populate both cores with them. HP is particularly keen on the low-voltage and cooler variants of the Xeon 5000s.
The BL260c comes with 1 GB of main memory, expandable to 24 GB using six DDR2 memory slots; it also has an Integrated Lights Out 2 (iLO2) service processor on board for configuration and remote management, a single mezzanine I/O slot for plugging in peripherals (such as Fibre Channel and InfiniBand network adapters), space for two small form factor (2.5-inch) disks that are not hot pluggable, and a software-based SATA RAID controller in the BIOS of the blade. It also comes with two Gigabit Ethernet ports on the back of the blade. The BL260c supports Microsoft's Windows as well as Red Hat and Novell Linuxes as mentioned above for the DL120 G5 rack server, but Sun Microsystems' Solaris Unix is also certified on the BL260c even though it is not orderable and configurable through HP's direct store.
A base configuration of the BL260c blade with a single 1.86 Celeron chip, 1 GB of memory, and no disks costs $1,201. With two quad-core, low-voltage Xeon L5410 processors running at 2.33 GHz and 8 GB of main memory (a more reasonable blade configuration), the BL260c costs $2,898.
Dell Broadens Single-Socket Entry X64 Server Lineup
HP Revamps ProLiant Rack and Tower Servers with New X64 Chips
Dell Revamps PowerEdge Server Line with Penryn Xeons
Intel Announces First "Penryn" Xeon Processors
AMD Stalled by a Bug in Barcelona Opterons
HP Engineers New Blade Server Box for SMB Shops
AMD Gets Aggressive About Watts with Quad-Core Barcelonas
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