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HP Announces New Integrity Servers with Intel Itanium 9500 Chips

HP looked less than dominant in Q3, despite leading the server market. The company hopes its new, faster and more energy-efficient products will help it to rebound in the high-end market.

HP announced a variety of new Integrity products at an event it co-hosted with Intel last week in San Francisco. Representatives from both companies repeatedly stressed the needs of mission-critical environments, with HP casting the biggest spotlight on the newest offering in its Superdome server line. These high-end servers are intended for demanding, always-on scenarios, and HP reps claimed the newest iteration can triple the performance of earlier systems while also consuming less energy. The performance boost was attributed partly to HP's engineers and partly to Intel's Itanium 9500-series processors, which were also announced last week. The new chips offer double the processing cores of their predecessors, with top configurations supporting up to eight.

The Integrity Superdome 2 boasts 64 cores per system in its base, eight-socket configuration, and the top-of-the-line 32-socket option can scale to up to 256 cores. Ric Lewis, HP's VP and general manager of Business Critical Systems, described the server as modular, remarking that the system is designed to scale as businesses grow. HP's tests claim the Superdome 2 processes transactions almost three times faster than the previous model. It includes new blades, offers up to 4 Tbytes of memory, and is advertised as less power-hungry than earlier versions. It also features new capabilities, such as "Power-On-Once" technology that allows administrators to hot-swap fans and power supplies without bringing down the system. HP claims customers can achieve a 33% TCO reduction with the new product.

HP also announced new Integrity server blades that range from two-socket to eight-socket configurations. The blades factor into the Superdome's energy saving boasts, as the company claims the new products, thanks to low-voltage DIMMS, require up to 21% less energy than their predecessors. HP also said the new products offer a unique system integrity feature that electrically isolates hard-partitioning capabilities without compromising data.

Hardware announcements were rounded out by the rx2800 i4, an entry-class Integrity server targeted at branch offices and expanding businesses. Software and services announcements included upgrades to HP-UX and HP's Integrity OS, and information about new advisory workshops HP will offer to customers. HP said the OS enhancements offer 10 times faster threat detection than previous models. The new HP-UX additionally boasts the ability to boost system efficiency by identifying idle, underused and overused servers. Relative to the previous version, it can also handle twice the workload volume within a single data center, supporting up to 256 cores per server.

The Integrity products will hit the market in December, and they'll have some questions to answer. The event began with a video that emphasized some of the crucial tasks that HP's service line supports, such as 90% of 9-1-1 calls. The introduction could be seen a testament to HP's converged infrastructure accomplishments, which Meg Whitman touted as a company foundation during a recent keynote address. Then again, one might see the video as an attempt to distract from HP's flat market performance. The company still led the mostly lackluster field, but, unlike Dell, it failed to gain ground. Some have identified diminishing Integrity demand as the reason--though it should be noted that HP reps said on Thursday that Integrity remains very profitable.

Nevertheless, any slowdown in Integrity demand would owe to a variety of factors beyond the servers' performance. The lawsuit that erupted after Oracle declared its intention to stop supporting Itanium, and thus Integrity, is one such factor. HP won the lawsuit--but there are other challenges to consider.

The growing need for x86 compatibility is chief among these challenges. To date, Itanium has been a Linux-exclusive system. Intel said future Itanium chips would cross-pollinate with its x86-based Xeon processors, with shared sockets among the benefits. HP suggested this should allow Integrity to extend to x86 in the future.

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