Hewlett-Packard Co. executives on Tuesday will announce that they are going to use Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s 64-bit Opteron processor in some of their ProLiant servers, according to a source close to both companies.
HP has scheduled a press conference for Tuesday morning in Houston to discuss the expansion of its industry-standard server line, which includes x86 systems currently powered by Intel Corp.s 32-bit Xeon and Pentium processors.
An HP spokesperson would not comment on the details of the announcements. A spokesman with AMD, of Sunnyvale, Calif., also declined to comment.
Reports about HPs interest in the Opteron chip first surfaced late last month. However, though officials with the Palo Alto, Calif., company would not confirm the reports, they also did not deny them. They said several times that there is customer demand for a 64-bit x86 solution and that, while they remain committed to standardizing HPs high-end systems on Intels 64-bit Itanium chip and its low-end and midrange systems on the x86 architecture, they were keeping their options open and assessing all current technology.
The idea drew a mixed reaction from industry observers. Some saw it as a swipe at Intel, its partner in developing the Itanium architecture. Others felt the move made sense, particularly given the effort HP is making to get its enterprise products group running smoothly.
However, it would fit in well with what is becoming a rapidly changing landscape in the 64-bit computing space. A year ago at this time, AMD was two months away from launching Opteron, and was without public support for the chip from any of the top-tier systems makers.
AMD officials heavily publicized a key difference between Opteron and Itanium—Opterons ability to run 32-bit and 64-bit x86 applications. Itanium is a different architecture and can run 32-bit software, but only through an emulation software layer, and not at the same performance as 64-bit applications.
AMD officials said Opteron allows enterprises an easier migration to 64-bit computing, and protects the millions of dollars in investments made in 32-bit applications.
Since the launch of Opteron in April 2003, IBM has jumped on board with the e325 server and an upcoming workstation using the chip. AMD also has entered into a development agreement with Sun Microsystems Inc., which earlier this month rolled out the first of its Opteron-based systems. HP will be the third major OEM to come aboard. And while Dell Inc. officials said last week that they have no plans to use Opteron in their servers, they added that they have tested servers running the chip in their labs.
At the same time, Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., at its developer conference last week announced what it had been denying for more than a year—that its Xeon processors starting in the second quarter will come with 64-bit extensions, enabling them to run 64-bit applications as well, similar to Opteron. Most major OEMs—from IBM and Dell to HP and Gateway—announced support for the chips with the extensions, which go by the name Clackamas Technology. The notable exception was Sun, which said it is relying on Opteron for the 64-bit x86 capabilities. However, officials there also said they are keeping their options open.
There also are changes in the 64-bit Unix world, with Sun this month rolling out its UltraSPARC IV chip and IBM in the second half of the year scheduled to release Power5.