Chips Find Home in Sun, HP Servers

HP consolidates server technology onto Intel's Itanium, while Sun employs AMD's Opteron.

The future of computing is 64-bit, and that future is now. That is according to high-end server manufacturers Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems Inc., both of which are readying 64-bit server rollouts.

HPs new systems and processors are designed to consolidate some of the companys existing 64-bit server technology onto Intel Corp.s Itanium processor, while Sun is broadening its 64-bit stable with its first server running Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s Opteron processor.

Servers powered by 64-bit chips can run twice as many bits of information in a clock cycle than 32-bit systems and handle greater amounts of memory, making them attractive to enterprises running data-intensive programs.

HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., will use a rollout of systems this week to advance a multiyear project to consolidate its server lines down to three. The Integrity and NonStop systems will run the Itanium chip, while the HP 9000 line will run the companys own PA-RISC chip.

HP will also unveil two dual-processor, entry-level Integrity offerings this week, the 1U (1.75-inch) rx1600 and 2U (3.5-inch) rx2600, both powered by 1.4GHz Low Voltage Itanium 2 processors and starting at less than $3,000, officials said. In addition, HP is adding support for InfiniBand switches and host channel adapters on clustered Integrity servers running HP-UX.

In a move to help customers running HP AlphaServer systems migrate to Itanium-based systems, HP will also announce the evaluation release of the OpenVMS 8.1 operating system. The aim of the upgrade, which is due later this year, is to allow programs designed for AlphaServer to run on Integrity machines.

HP also will announce that the first of its high-end NonStop servers running on the Itanium will be released later this year. This is the first step in migrating the users of those systems, which are equipped with MIPS R14000 processors, to the Itanium.

For its non-Itanium servers, HP will unveil the latest generation of the PA-RISC—the 8800—which is a dual-core, 64-bit processor that will be available in all 9000 systems by the end of next month. But even here, HP is looking down the road to consolidation. The PA-RISC 8800 interfaces with the Itanium chip set and bus, widening the migration path for users.

The 8800 chip will improve performance by at least 50 percent and will enable HP to grow its high-end HP 9000 Superdome system from 64 processors to 128, officials said.

Vanguard Car Rental USA Inc. needed a 64-bit system to enable it to consolidate the two environments that run its National and Alamo car rental agencies. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., company is moving its HP ProLiant systems and an IBM mainframe onto a single Superdome system running HP-UX, said Vanguard Chief Technology Officer Tyler Best.

"The car rental industry is like a commodity," Best said. "If you dont have the uptime to make the transaction at that time, youre going to lose that business."

For Sun, the Opteron is an avenue to serve customers interested in 64-bit systems running Linux. The Santa Clara, Calif., companys new two-way Opteron-based system, due this week, will be followed by a four-way server scheduled for release next quarter and an eight-way server scheduled for later this year.

Just as HP is linking older and newer technologies by creating interfaces between PA-RISC and Itanium, Sun and AMD are working closely on joint development projects involving SPARC and Opteron. These could, for example, lead to such breakthroughs as common I/O and common diagnostic frameworks for the Opteron and for Suns UltraSPARC chip.

In the meantime, Sun this week will introduce the UltraSPARC IV, which will offer two UltraSPARC III cores and twice the performance of systems running the current UltraSPARC III chips. That performance enhancement will jump to three or four times once the next-generation chip is released next year, officials said.