HP Takes on Sun in Midrange Servers

 
 
By eweek  |  Posted 2001-09-24
 
 
 

Hewlett-Packard, continuing to battle Sun Microsystems in the server market, launched the rp8400, a dense server that offers greater power and reliability at a price lower than the competitions, and brings new self-monitoring and recovery features into the HP midrange lineup.

The rp8400 is a 2-processor to 16-processor server, powered by HPs latest 650-megahertz or 750-MHz Precision Architecture 8700 central processing units, that may be partitioned.

"Weve taken a lot of the Superdome capabilities and features, and brought them down to the rp8400," said Duane Zitzner, president of HPs computing systems unit. Superdome is a 64-processor machine with the option of partitioning it into many different-size submachines.

Partitioning, originally an IBM mainframe feature, allows an application to run on its own set of dedicated processors and memory in a large machine. If the application fails, other partitions continue running without interruption, Zitzner said.

Partitioning is a feature of the Sun Microsystems Enterprise 10000 high-end server as well, and Sun officials were quick to take aim at Hewlett-Packards latest offering. "I know the HP customer base is facing confusing times over the upcoming merger with Compaq," said Chris Kruell, group marketing manager of Suns system products. He cited uncertainty over the merged companys future platforms, which currently include two Unixes — Compaqs Tru64 and HP-UX; Microsofts Windows; the former Digital Equipments OpenVMS; and two Linuxes.

HP officials have declined to say which systems will survive.

"Sun has provided a clear choice of one platform with binary compatibility," Kruell said, referring to the ability of an application to run across the entire UltraSparc/Solaris server line.

The HP rp8400 will compete with the Sun StarFire 3800 and 6800 midrange servers. The two companies are fierce competitors for the high-end Unix market. Sun ships more servers than HP, but in terms of revenue generated by Unix servers, HP is within "less than a percentage point," said IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky.

HP envisions a new product that fills a gap between its existing N-class midrange machines, now renamed the rp7400 line, and the big Superdome. The rp7400 tops out at eight processors.

Other high-end features include error checking and correction, preventing small failures within memory or a CPU from bringing down its partition, and chip kill, an automatic shutdown of a CPU that shows signs of failing. Under chip kill, the work is shifted elsewhere during the controlled shutdown, said John Miller, HP server marketing manager.

The rp8400 also packs a lot of punch in a small package. Its been designed to fit into rack mounts for thin servers, taking up 17 slots of a 42-slot rack, or two in a single rack with eight slots left over for other devices. "Its footprint is very small, very dense," Zitzner noted.

The HP rp8400 is available immediately at a base price of $124,000 with two 650-MHz CPUs.

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