HP Touts Performance of Itanium-Based Server

Four-way Itanium 2-based rx5670 server achieves top scores in three benchmarks.

Hewlett-Packard Co. on Monday hailed the record-breaking performance of its four-way Itanium 2-based rx5670 server, seeking to win over skeptical system managers who remain wary of the new processor.

The results also highlighted the flexibility of Intel Corp.s 64-bit Itanium architecture since the benchmarks were achieved on servers running three different operating systems: Linux, HP-UX 11i and Microsoft Corp.s 64-bit Windows.

While Itanium, which was co-developed by Intel and HP and first introduced in May 2001, has largely met high performance expectations, the new product continues to struggle to gain acceptance among large corporate customers who buy mostly 64-bit servers to run their business-critical applications.

Currently, the 64-bit market is dominated by Sun Microsystems Inc. and its UltraSparc III-based systems, HP and its PA-RISC and Alpha-based servers, and IBM, which features its Power4 processors in its high-end systems. However, HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., is betting heavily on Itanium, and has already announced plans to phase out its two competing architectures, PA-RISC and Alpha, and migrate all of 64-bit systems to Itanium.

While sales have not been as strong as once hoped, HP maintained the rollout of Itanium is proceeding on schedule.

"Were pretty pleased with Itanium, but obviously wed like to see the pickup happen a lot faster than it is," said John Miller, director of server marketing for HPs Critical Systems Group. "Things are going about the best you could expect considering the bad economy. If there was more money for people to spend on technology, it probably would be happening much quicker."

In addition to tight IT spending, HP must also overcome cynicism some customers have about the new processor, Miller said.

"Of course there are skeptics out there, but I think weve done a pretty pragmatic job through benchmarks and proof points to overcome any doubts about the architecture," he said. "For people who where wondering whether it can deliver the performance, I think that with these benchmark results were demonstrating it can."

The rx5670 outfitted with four 1GHz Itanium 2 processors achieved top scores in running SPECweb99 SSL on Linux; SPECjbb2000 on HP-UX 11i, the computer makers proprietary Unix platform; and SAP APO-AP running on Microsoft Windows.

On SPECweb99 SSL, a benchmark designed to measure a servers ability to handle encrypted Web transactions, HPs server managed to process 1,498 simultaneous connections. The result was more than 50 percent higher than the score posted by IBMs p630 server equipped with four 1GHz Power4 processors, and more than double the result achieved by Suns V480 using the 900MHz UltraSPARC III processors.

On SPECjbb2000, a benchmark designed to measure a systems ability to run Java applications, HPs rx5670 achieved a record throughput of 63,414 operations per second, beating IBMs best-published four-processor RISC-based system result by 33 percent and Suns highest published eight-processor RISC-based system result by 46 percent.

The SAP APO-DP (Advanced Planning and Optimization Demand Planning) benchmark is designed to measure performance in running supply-chain demand-planning models. On this test, HPs-four way server beat the previous industry-leading four-way result by 15 percent, achieving a record result of 157,555/hour planned characteristic combinations on an aggregate level running Microsoft Windows Advanced LE Version 1.2 and Microsofts SQL Server 64 database.

"Itanium 2s processor performance numbers are impressive, matching or besting the best RISC processor results," said Jonathan Eunice, an analyst at Illuminata Inc., in Nashua, N.H. "More conclusive from a user perspective, however, are the stream of excellent results coming out of recent database, Web and application benchmarks. They confirm the suitability of the platform for commercial computing."

Prices for HPs rx5670, which began shipping last month, start at about $20,000 for a system equipped with a single 1GHz Itanium 2 processor, and $49,000 for a server featuring four processors.