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HP's Superdome 2: Bigger, Badder Computing

In the realm of high-performance computing, more is better. HP has announced an upgrade to it's Cache Coherent Non-Uniform Memory Access (ccNUMA) computing platform, Superdome, named Superdome 2. Superdome 2 provides flexible scalability and fault tolerance necessary for high-performance computing. While NUMA-based systems like Superdome and Superdome 2 have been relegated to relatively niche markets focused on high-performance computing and high-speed transactions, as IT moves towards virtualization, your data center will start to resemble an HPC cluster rather than a rack of servers.
HP announced three new Integrity blade servers, the BL860ci2 which can run one or two Intel Itanium 9300 quad-core processors and 96GB or RAM for a list price of $6,490. The BL870c i2 support can up to four Itanium 9300 quad-core processors and 192GB of RAM for a list price of $13,970, and the BL890c i2 supports up to eight Itanium quad-core processors and 384GB of RAM for a list price of $30,935. The new Integrity blades support HP's Virtual connect Flex-10 networking for converged data and storage traffic. The new Integrity blades also run HP-UX-11iv3, announced in March. The Integrity blades can also be used in HP C-class chassis, as well.

Put these servers into a Superdome 2 chassis and you begin to benefit from the ccNUMA architecture. NUMA is a method for combining computing resources like CPU, RAM and IO from many individual servers into a single platform. You can combine three 4-CPU systems into a single 12-process server. HP beefed up Superdome 2 by adding the ability to add CPU, RAM and IO independent of each other. In the previous Superdome, CPU, RAM and IO were tied in fixed blocks. If you increased one, you increased the other two. With Superdome 2, the three elements are independent making more efficient use of resources.

HP also enhanced their crossbar technology that interconnects the Integrity blades by making the path redundant and fully utilized. Path redundancy means that if one path between systems should fail, the other path can handle the full load. Both paths are also used so that Superdome can load-balance between the system, reducing contention and bottlenecks. HP also added the ability to use virtual IO housed in another Superdome 2 chassis via a high-speed cable. This allows you to aggregate IO as needed without having to purchase expensive IO cards for each Superdome 2 chassis.

Superdome 2 integrates with HP Insight Dynamics management platform, but the chassis itself has monitoring and self-healing capabilities. Using an analysis engine, the Superdome 2 system monitors system performance and can detect and in some cases, correct faults in the chassis or fabric. The analysis engine can also alert IT about problems. A useful feature is that the analysis engine can provide advice to optimize system utilization and pinpoint potential problems before they manifest.