Dual Chips to Power HP Blade Servers

Company claims its ultradense systems are already outselling 1U servers.

Hewlett-Packard Co. will release beefier blade servers with dual Intel Corp. processors "shortly," according to a company executive, adding that unit sales of its relatively new ultradense systems are already surpassing those of earlier thin-chassis designs.

Aiming to fuel wider adoption of its blades, HP, based in Palo Alto, Calif., will soon introduce the Proliant BL p-class, first with dual Pentium III chips this quarter and blades packed with four Intel Xeon chips by early 2003. Currently, HPs Proliant BL e-class features a single Pentium III chip.

The switch to heftier chips means blades, currently targeted to run modest tasks, such as hosting Web pages, will be able to handle more robust business applications, adding to the appeal of the compact design introduced only last year..

"Were seeing very good take-up of the blade server technology, faster than anticipated," said Mary McDowell, general manager of HPs Industry Standard (Intel-based) Servers Global Business Unit. "Were starting to see the volumes passing some of the 1U [1.75-inch-thick] configurations in recent months."

According to market researcher International Data Corp., blades will account for about 20 percent of units shipped by 2005.

Prior to the arrival of blade servers, 1U servers (shaped like pizza boxes) were the most compact design available. The systems are among the industrys best selling, valued not only for their relative low cost (averaging about $2,000), but for their thin design that enables users to stack 42 of the 1U servers in an industry-standard 6-foot-tall rack.

Blades, however, are even more compact. By reducing a server to little more than a motherboard and processor, computer makers have been able to dramatically boost the number of servers in a rack. Companies prize such compact designs to ease space constraints within data centers.

By lining the blades up vertically, like books on a bookshelf, the HP Proliant BL e-class system can fit 20 blades into a 3U (5.25-inch) chassis, and up to 280 servers into a standard 6-foot rack.

Several startup companies, such as Texas-based RLX Technologies, first introduced blades to the market last year.

In January, Compaq Computer Corp. became the first top-tier computer maker to offer the form factor. HP acquired the product line in May in its buyout of Houston-based Compaq. HPs earlier blade design, now called the HP Server BH series, is targeted solely for use in the telecommunications industry.

In coming months, several major U.S. companies plan to introduce their own blade designs, including Dell Computer Corp., IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc.