HP Launches Four-Way ProLiant with Opterons
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
IBM may have been the first tier-one server maker to support the AMD Opteron processor, which it did a year ago, but Hewlett-Packard wants to be the first one to support the Opteron in a four-way machine that is capable of supporting bigger workloads than IBM's two-way eServer 325 machine. And this week, HP announced that it has done this by putting the ProLiant DL585 into the field.
Both IBM, with its eServer 325 introduced this time last year, and HP, with the DL145 that was announced in February and which just started shipping a few weeks ago, are supporting two-way, rack-mountable Opteron machines suitable for high performance and technical computing where performance and memory bandwidth make the 32-bit or 64-bit Opteron, a better choice than a Xeon--whether or not that is a current 32-bit Prestonia chip or a future 64-bit Nocona Xeon DP chip. But two-way servers can only do so much. The Opterons were made to scale from one to eight processors using the modular, NUMA-like HyperTransport interconnect, and HP is the first big player to create a four-way machine using the Opteron 800 series processors.
According to Steve Cumings, group marketing manager for ProLiant Opteron systems at HP, the company is working on blade servers that will use the Opteron chips, which run cooler, cost less, and provide more performance than the Intel Xeon chips HP has been putting into its ProLiant BL blade servers.
He said HP would expand its ProLiant Opteron line again throughout 2005, but he would not provide any clarification as to what this might mean. Presumably, HP will deliver a broader mix of two-way, four-way, and maybe even eight-way boxes. In theory, HP could make machines larger than this, but given that the company wants to sell Integrity servers, which used 64-bit Itanium processors, to midrange and large enterprises, HP could stop at the four-way point with Opterons.
In any event, the ProLiant DL585 is a smoking box, and customers are going to raise their eyebrows when they see the feeds and speeds on this one. Cumings says that in early tests among beta customers, the ProLiant 585 outperformed other four-way Xeon machines installed at the companies by anywhere from 8 to 50 percent, depending on the workload.
The typical customer, says HP, is seeing a performance boost in the 8 to 15 percent range on most applications. Performance improvements go higher than that for applications that are memory or bandwidth sensitive. For the sake of a price/performance comparison, say that average performance benefit running 32-bit Windows or Linux operating systems and applications is 20 percent. HP is charging $15,798 for a ProLiant DL580 with two 2.8 GHz Xeon DPs and 2 GB of main memory, but is only charging $11,999 for a ProLiant DL585 with two 2.2 GHz Opteron 848 processors and 2GB of memory. That's a roughly 35 percent difference in price/performance.
How is HP charging so little for the ProLiant DL585? Cumings says that a lot of that is due to very favorable pricing on Opteron chips from AMD, because AMD wants HP to push Opteron volumes. This is exactly why competition is a beautiful thing for consumers.
The existing Intel-based ProLiant DL580 G2 server is a 4U chassis that supports up to four 32-bit Xeon MP processors; specifically, customers can install 2 GHz/1 MB, 2.5 GHz/1 MB, or 2.8 GHz/2 MB chips. The DL580 uses the ServerWorks GC-HE chipset, which supports 400 MHz front side buses and up to 32 GB of main memory.
The new ProLiant DL585 can, in theory, support a very large amount of main memory, but HP is setting the base at 2 GB and the max at 64 GB. The DL585 supports Opteron 848 processors running at 1.6 GHz, 1.8 GHz, or 2.2 GHz. The DL585 uses the AMD 8000 chipset, which has an 800 MHz HyperTransport interconnect; the memory controller integrated onto the Opteron chips runs at clock speed.
Cumings says that with the ProLiant DL145 (an Opteron box), the majority of the machines have been equipped with 32-bit Linux, which stands to reason given the fact that these Opteron machines have been popular among high performance computing (HPC) customers. With the early adopters of the DL585 (an Opteron box), Windows represents approximately 70 percent to 75 percent of the operating systems on the boxes, with Linux being the remainder.
That's a pretty good share for Linux. On the ProLiant DL580s using the Xeon processors, 90 percent or more of the machines are equipped with Windows. He says that while 64-bit Linuxes are available from Red Hat and Novell today, HP is in the middle of certifying them now and probably will not officially support them on its Opteron machines until July or so.