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HP Ships 64-Way 'Marvel' AlphaServer, Adds Entry DS15.

By Timothy Prickett Morgan

As expected, Hewlett Packard Co this week started shipping its high-end "Marvel" AlphaServer machines, which use the EV7 64-bit Alpha processors designed by the Digital unit of the former Compaq and which run the Tru64 Unix or OpenVMS proprietary operating systems. The new GS1280 supports up to 64 processors in a single system image, just like the "Superdome" Integrity line does with the Itanium 2 processors from Intel Corp. The company has also announced a new entry uniprocessor AlphaServer based on the EV68 processor.

These EV7 AlphaServer machine are, contrary to various press accounts, the penultimate machines in the line, not the omega machines. (There were a lot of "alpha-omega" puns. The machines shipping now are the "psi" machines, if you want to stick to the Greek alphabet.) AlphaServers running an improved EV7 or EV79 processor, due in the second half of next year, will be the actual last of the venerable line of DEC minicomputers that stretches back through time to the VAX and PDP machines.

The DS15 entry server is a refresh of the existing DS10 uniprocessor server that HP and Compaq have been selling for years. The DS10 is a 3U server that uses the prior generation of EV68 processors, and the DS15 includes a faster 1GHz EV68 processor as well as faster main memory and more I/O bandwidth. The DS10 and its knock off, a 1U version called the DS10L that has a limited amount of memory and disk support, is a popular node in high performance technical clusters, and according to Don Jenkins, vice president of marketing for the Business Critical Server unit at HP, technical customers have been urging HP to get a faster machine out the door. The DS10 machine had a 600MHz EV68 processor with 2MB of L2 cache and either 1GB or 2GB of maximum main memory and up to 80GB or 364GB of disk storage, depending on the model. The new DS15 sports a 1GHz EV68 with 2MB of L2 cache and up to 4GB of main memory and up to 435GB of disk capacity in a 3U chassis. It also has 2GB/sec of I/O bandwidth, which is significantly higher than the 250MB/sec bandwidth of the DS10 and DS10L. Pricing for the new DS15 was not available as we went to press.

Back in August, HP rolled out the 32-way version of the Marvel box, and this week it is doubling the SMP scalability of the machine to 64-way. The Marvel design was originally conceived to hit 128-way SMP, but HP has put the kibosh on that idea when it bought Compaq. The entry eight-way configuration of the GS1280 server costs $117,000, and back in August a 32-way with 32GB of main memory sold for about $1.4m. Jenkins says that a reasonably configured 64-way machine with the 1.15GHz EV7 processors and a decent amount of main memory will cost between $1m and $2m. The GS1280 has 1.75MB of L2 cache per processor and supports up to 512GB of main memory and 4.7TB of disk capacity; it delivers 204.8GB/sec of I/O bandwidth, which is a factor of 16 more than the 32-way "Wildfire" AlphaServer GS320 machines it replaces. The GS320s use a 1.224GHz EV68 processor and could probably do about 285,000 transactions per minute on the TPC-C online transaction processing benchmark test.

While HP has not and will not present any commercial benchmark test results on the new 64-way AlphaServers, Jenkins says that the Marvel machines offer customers five, ten, twenty, or even thirty times the performance compared to earlier generations of AlphaServers because of the innovative architecture of the machines. So they are getting great price/performance improvement. In a side-by-side test, he says, a Marvel AlphaServer might meet or beat a 64-way Itanium-based Integrity machine, or the Integrity machine might win out. It is hard to guess what a 64-way GS1280 could do, but with twice the main memory, very low memory latencies, twice the number of processors, and 16 times the I/O bandwidth, a 64-way Marvel machine could be anywhere from 600,000 to 800,000 TPM running Oracle on a big Marvel box equipped with Tru64 Unix. A lot depends on how I/O and memory constrained the Wildfire machines were when Compaq ran its last TPC-C benchmark on the AlphaServers back in July 2001.

Jenkins says that HP is on track to deliver a beat developer's version of the OpenVMS port to the Integrity machines later this year, and deliver a production version of OpenVMS for Integrity during the second half of 2004, right in schedule.

HP is also committed to giving the Marvel machines one last speed bump for the processors. Up until now, HP had planned to roll out the EV79 kicker to the EV7, which would be based on one of IBM's advanced chip processes and which would probably include some tweaks to the core and larger on-chip cache memories. (IBM Microelectronics is the fab for the HP Alpha and PA-RISC processors.) But HP, says Jenkins, is weighing the option of pushing the clocks on the existing EV7 using a chip process that IBM is getting better yields on to add performance to the Marvel line instead of spending more money to put the EV7 into production with a more expensive and advanced IBM chip making process. A faster machine with less expensive processors is probably a better option, and HP is weighing those options now. All Jenkins knows is that HP does not want the next speed bump on the Marvel machines to be delayed into 2005, but to come out right on time and deliver exactly the performance boost that HP promised to customers when it merged with Compaq.

By the way, the ES47 (four-way) and GS80 (eight-way) EV7 AlphaServer machines have all had their main memories doubled to a maximum of 8GB per processor.

In addition to the new servers, HP has also rolled out OpenVMS 7.3-2 and Tru64 Unix V5.1B-1, which take advantage of the new Marvel hardware. The Galaxy software partitions and dynamic resource reallocation across those partitions are available on EV7 machines now, too, when they are running OpenVMS.
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Title Annotation:HP GS1280
Author:Morgan, Timothy Prickett
Publication:Computergram International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 21, 2003
Words:1043
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