HP Explores 64-bit x86, Unveils PA-8800 Servers

Hewlett-Packard rolled out a new line of servers Monday (Feb. 9) based on its dual-core 64-bit PA-8800 processor.

February 10, 2004

3 Min Read
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Hewlett-Packard rolled out a new line of servers Monday (Feb. 9) based on its dual-core 64-bit PA-8800 processor. As part of the launch, the company reaffirmed it is well along in its planned transition of all its high-end server lines to the 64-bit Itanium CPU it co-develops with Intel Corp.

Vish Mulchand, head of marketing for HP's high-end servers, said the company expects to support 64-bit processors across its existing low-end x86 servers. He would not say whether the company will choose the AMD Opteron or an expected 64-bit Pentium line Intel may demonstrate at its developer conference next week (Feb 17-19).

Some analysts expect Intel's next major Pentium CPU, called Tejas and expected to ship in about a year, will have 64-bit capabilities. Analysts have said the 64-bit x86 could kill sales of high-end 64-bit RISC chips like Intel's Itanium, but Mulchand disagreed.

"64-bit capabilities are just one aspect of a system. Our high-end servers are already 64-bit. Nintendo has a 64-bit video game console," said Mulchand. "HP is exploring [bringing 64-bit CPUs to its x86 servers], and we will make an announcement about that soon," he added.

The advent of 64-bit x86 chips is not changing HP's plans to standardize its high-end servers on Itanium. HP already ships a line of Integrity systems based on Itanium including versions of its top-of-the-line 128-CPU Superdome.Boards from the Integrity line based on the Madison 6M version of the Itanium are being used as the basis for the HP's next-generation Tandem NonStop systems that support up to 1,024 CPUs in a cluster. Itanium-based NonStop servers could ship within a year and may be based on the Madison 9M Itanium, Mulchand said. Today stock exchanges, large banks and other large corporations use the NonStop systems.

HP is also moving to Itanium the OpenVMS operating system used on its servers acquired from Compaq that currently use the 64-bit Alpha processor. HP has rolled out a developer release of OpenVMS for Itanium. The OS will be in a final production release later this year.

OS Upgrade

Separately, HP is upgrading its HP-UX operating system to include clustering and file-system features of the TrueUnix-64 operating system some of its Alpha servers now use. The new HP-UX will be available as an upgrade to TrueUnix-64 in late 2005.

The new PA-8800 systems use the same processor bus and chip set as the Itanium. Thus the boards in the new server line are essentially identical to the boards used in HP's Itanium-based Integrity line today, saving costs for HP in its hardware transition. By swapping out boards, users will be able to upgrade current PA-8700-based servers to the 8800, a follow-on 8900 processor next year or to Itanium.The PA-8800 runs at 1 GHz, has 1.5 Mbytes L1 cache, 32 Mbytes off-chip L2 cache and is made in a 130nm process. The 8900 is expected to have more cache and a higher frequency and will probably also use two CPU cores. The chip will ship in systems in 2005.

In April, HP will begin selling Infiniband switches made by Topspin Communications Inc. (Mountain View, Calif.) as well as third-party Infiniband controllers for server and storage clusters in some high-performance applications. Long term, the company sees Gbit Ethernet with remote direct memory access as its mainstream clustering technology.

Mulchand characterized HP's hardware transitions as moving forward, but accommodating the relatively slow pace of change high-end server users want.

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