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HP Fleshes Out Integrity Line with Midrange Boxes.

By Timothy Prickett Morgan

Hewlett Packard Co today will announce that it has finished engineering the baby versions of the Itanium 2-based Superdome servers, which are aimed at midrange customers.

The new rx Series machines, which max out at 8 or 16 processors, use the same "Pinnacles" sx1000 chipset that the 64-way Superdome server does. With these two machines, which are sold under the Integrity brand name, HP has a full line of Itanium 2 machines that spans from 2 to 64 processors and runs Windows, HP-UX, or Linux.

With the Integrity midrange server announcements, HP can pursue its own vast HP 9000 Unix server installed base with Itanium 2-based servers. But don't think that the announcement of these two machines is the immediate death knell for the existing HP 9000 rp7410 (8-way) or rp8400 (16-way) servers, which currently use the PA-8700 processors designed by HP.

While the company has a long-range plan to move all of its customers to 64-bit Itanium servers, HP knows this is a transition that will span many years. That is why, says Dimitris Dovas, who is the worldwide midrange product line manager for HP's Business Critical Systems unit, HP will roll out the dual-core PA-8800s into the existing HP 9000 rp7410 and rp8400 machines within the next few months.

HP is also working on a kicker to the PA-8800 called the PA-8900, which will also be available for customers who do not want to upgrade to Itanium in the next few years. HP can't force the issue. All it can do is make HP-UX 11i run on the new boxes and hope that the jump to Itanium is more attractive to another platform entirely.

The two new midrange servers from HP, which are called the rx7620 and the rx8620, are based on the same chassis as the rp7410 and rp8400. From the outside, they look entirely the same. The main differences in the machines is the cell boards that plug into the backplanes of the servers and the processors that plug into those cell boards.

The rp Series machines have cell boards that were designed for the PA-8700 processors running at 750MHz and 875MHz, with up to four processors per cell board. The new rx Series machines have new cell boards that incorporate up to four of the 1.3GHz/3MB or 1.5GHz/6MB "Madison" Itanium 2 processors.

Companies that want to upgrade from one style of chip to another in these machines can do a board-level swap and plug in the Intel chips into the new boards. The memory modules used in the machines are the same, as are the I/O cards and other peripherals.

Exact configuration information for the rx7620 and rx8620 machines was not available as we went to press, but it seems like that the memory configurations in these machines are the same as in the rp Series, meaning 2Gb to 64GB in the 8-way box and 2GB to 128GB in the 16-way box.

The interesting bit, of course, will be to see how the performance and price/performance of the Itanium 2 versions of the 8-way and 16-way machines compare to that of the HP 9000 flavors of the machines.

If the performance is a lot higher - and for some workloads, like SPECjbb it looks as if performance is nearly twice that of the machines using PA-8700 processors - and the price is the same or lower, it won't take a rocket scientist to figure out what customers will do. (HP has to offer much better bang for the buck on Itanium or no one would ever move off PA-RISC.)

Dovas says that sales of Superdome servers in general are running ahead of plan, and that since the June 30 launch of the Itanium 2-based versions of Superdome, versions of the machine using Itanium are selling well ahead of expectations. What the exact split is between PA and Itanium, he would not say.

The base rx7620 (presumably with two 1.3GHz Madison processors and 2GB of main memory) sells for $23,735, while a base rx8620 (with the same two processors and 2GB of memory) sells for $62,730.

Dovas says that HP has been shipping these new machines for the past 20 days, but certification and testing has not been completed on all operating systems. Both machines are shipping now running HP-UX 11i. Linux (presumably from Red Hat and SuSE) will be certified in December on these machines, and Windows Server 2003 will be certified in early February.

In addition to these two machines, HP has also announced higher-density four-way servers based on the "Pluto"zx1 chipset made by HP. This machine also uses Madison chips running at 1.3GHz or 1.5GHz. The existing four-way rx5670 servers come in a 7U rack-mounted chassis, but the new rx4640 has been shrunk to a 4U chassis.

HP-UX, Windows, and Linux are available on this machine right now, and a base configuration sells for $15,869. A base rx5670 with a single 1.3GHz Madison, 1GB of main memory, and 36GB disk costs $21,950. This machine costs more because it has a lot more expansion room.
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Title Annotation:HP PA-8800, HP 9000 rp7410 and rp8400
Publication:Computergram International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 3, 2003
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