Dell Inc.s decision to exit the eight-processor server arena adds fuel to the growing scale-out versus scale-up data center architecture debate.
Dell has long been a vocal proponent of scaled-out data center architecture—one in which multiple smaller servers are linked to give enterprises computing power equal to that of larger symmetric multiprocessing systems.
Meanwhile, IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co. are each preparing upgrades that address the scale-up concept, which calls for adding bigger systems with more chips when greater processing power is required.
Dell, of Round Rock, Texas, last week announced it has stopped development of its eight-processor PowerEdge 8450, deciding instead to focus research and development on two- and four-way systems that could be used in scaled-out architectures.
Analysts said that within five years, the performance of two- and four-way systems will have improved enough to handle the larger back-end applications—such as databases—that the larger servers typically run now.
HP and IBM officials agreed that scale-out is a good option for some. But they still see eight-way servers as an important part of their data center strategies. HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., sees its eight-way ProLiant DL740 and DL760 G2 systems as bridges between its 32-bit Xeon-based systems and 64-bit Itanium-based servers, for example.
HP will refresh those eight-way servers early next year with the next Xeon MP chip from Intel Corp., said Colin Lacey, group manager for HPs MP Servers.
In addition, eight-processor systems are part of an overall plan by HP to streamline the hardware components of its server lines—IA-32, Itanium and PA-RISC—by sometime in 2005 and to create a common software stack for all three by the end of this year, Lacey said.
Meanwhile, IBM will continue to upgrade its eServer x440 line of Intel-based servers that can support up to 32 processors, said Deepak Advani, vice president of the Armonk, N.Y., companys xSeries servers. By the end of the year, IBM will introduce a system powered by anywhere from four to 16 of Intels new Itanium 2 6M chips, giving enterprises high-end multiprocessor capability in 32-bit and 64-bit computing, Advani said.
"We do not see in two- and four-ways the raw horsepower we need with an eight-way box," said Jason Robohm, director of technical services at Crossmark Holdings Inc., in Plano, Texas.
While multiple smaller servers linked together may give users good failover protection, the larger systems offer such features as hot-swappable RAID and the ability to add processors as demand grows, said Robohm, who uses HP eight-way servers.