HP Building Out Web 2.0 Infrastructures

HP is offering a new dense blade for high-performance computing, Web 2.0 infrastructure and "hyper-scale" data centers.

Hewlett-Packard is aiming its latest efforts at the cloud.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company is rolling out a new blade system May 28 that is the latest piece of its effort to help enterprises build out infrastructures that can support Web 2.0 commerce and applications, high-performance computing and other "hyper-scale" data center designs.

The new blade, the HP ProLiant BL2x220c G5, is just one part of what the company calls its "Scalable Computing and Infrastructure" program, which looks to utilize HP's servers, storage, software and consulting services to design, build and manage the type of data center that supports cloud computing or Web 2.0.

The new ProLiant blade is an ultra dense system that fits two server nodes within a half blade slot. This means an HP c7000 enclosure, for example, can hold 32 of these nodes. If a company wanted to pack these blades into a 42U (73.5-inch) rack, it could support up to 1,024 processing cores-based on Intel's Xeon 5400 quad-core chips-along with 2TB of RAM.

While marquee companies such as Google, Yahoo and Amazon.com have been building these types of data centers for years, HP also wants to offer a range of configurations that can benefit other types of enterprises from oil and gas exploration businesses to financial services, said Paul Miller, vice president of marketing for HP's Enterprise Storage and Servers division.

"What we prefer to do is not just make this for three or four customers or 10 customers, but every customer [that] can take advantage of this," said Miller.

"So we not only out-engineer [the competition], but we also put the volume spin on this so everyone can do this," Miller added. "If you look at the portfolio that we are building out in this scale initiative, we can go in and custom design the data center, or if you're a guy who just wanting 10 nodes and you want [the ProLiant BL2x220c G5] in a single chassis, we can provide it to you. So, if you want your own personal cloud, we can provide that to customers as well."

When it comes to building a cloud computing data center, HP is joining what has recently turned into a crowded market. In April, IBM unveiled its iDataPlex server array, which looks to squeeze a massive amount of computing power into a 42U rack that uses standard x86 servers.

Dell has also added its name to the cloud computing push with a number of products as well as services. Smaller vendors such as Verari Systems and Rackable Systems are also building dense server stacks and other hardware for these types of data centers, although the presence of IBM and HP in this space may help to further validate the market, according to industry experts.

Jed Scaramella, an analyst with IDC, said that while HP is a little late to the market and is still trying to pull together the various pieces of its full portfolio, the field of cloud computing remains in its very early stages. This means that none of these various offerings from HP, IBM or other vendors has proved itself as the new industry standard.

"It's a brand new market and these companies are coming in with something that reflects their core competencies," said Scaramella. "IBM is looking to offer a total solution package, while Dell is offering an ultra sleek server board. Now, you have HP coming in with its blade because it's the market leader when it comes to blades."

What companies such as Google and Amazon are after, said Scaramella, is the ability to buy thousands of servers at a time that can easily be ripped out and replaced. These companies, not the hardware vendors selling the servers, use their own software to handle issues such as high availability and disaster recovery.

At HP, the company is working on building out its own software for cloud computing and the type of hyper-scale data centers that enterprises are looking to build, said Miller. For now, the company is relying on its domain expertise, hardware portfolio and consulting services to help customers that want to build these types of data centers.

The HP ProLiant BL2x220c G5, which is available as of Wednesday, has a starting price of $6,349. The price includes one blade with two nodes that support four quad-core processors and a total of 32GB of RAM. Each node also supports its own 120GB SATA (serial ATA) hard disk drive.