HP Melds Blades, Itanium

Integrity server seen as step in data center evolution.

Hewlett-Packard Co.s upcoming Itanium-based blade server is the latest step toward what the OEM views as the next wave in blade computing, where more and more data center components are offered in a bladed fashion.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company last week unveiled the Integrity BL60p, the first blade system to run on Intel Corp.s Itanium 2 processor and to support the HP-UX 11i operating system. The BL60p will start shipping in the first quarter of next year.

The two-way system will broaden HPs BladeSystem offerings, which currently run on Xeon chips from Intel and Opteron processors from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. It also grows operating system support, which now includes Microsoft Corp.s Windows and Linux.

"This will add to the depth of our environment," said Mark Potter, vice president of HPs BladeSystem business.

HP officials see the evolution of bladed computing in three steps. The first step was the introduction. The second step, currently under way, is the form factor going mainstream, and the third step will be including most components in a flexible and integrated blade platform, with modules that can connect multiple resources to create a virtualized pool that can be tapped as needed and managed from a single console.

"Anything you do today in a traditional compute environment you will be able to do in a bladed environment," said Rick Becker, vice president and general manager of BladeSystem solutions.

Bringing HP-UX and Itanium into a bladed environment and enabling the blade to take advantage of the sub-CPU partitioning offered in other Itanium-based Integrity systems and to be managed by the same suite that oversees all other servers, storage and networking devices is another step in that direction, officials said. It follows HPs purchase of former blade pioneer RLX Technologies Inc., a purchase that was made to upgrade HPs capabilities in Linux and blade management.

RLXs Control Tower management suite will be integrated into HPs Systems Insight Manager within the next six months, Becker said. In addition, RLX engineers will be the key members of an innovation center at HP centered on Linux, he said.

Cerner Corp., a hosted IT provider for the medical industry, has been using Xeon-based blades for more than two years and currently runs about 1,800 of them for its Windows applications. The Kansas City, Mo., company was looking for greater flexibility and easier manageability for its operations, said Tony Linville, senior manager of infrastructure services.

"Were a remote hosting center," Linville said. "We have a lot of change, and we have to be able to manage that change."

Linville said other data center components are already moving toward a bladed platform—he pointed to the growth of SANs (storage area networks) and I/O technology from such vendors as Cisco Systems Inc.—and added that he envisions that trend continuing. While most of Linvilles environment is based on Windows and Linux, Cerner does run OpenVMS from HP and AIX from IBM and will look at Unix-based blades from both vendors to handle those applications, he said.

IBM offers a blade for Unix customers, the BladeCenter JS20, which runs on its PowerPC 970 chips. Other vendors offering Itanium-based blades include NEC Solutions America Inc. and Hitachi Ltd.

HPs new system will first run on the single-core "Madison" Itanium 2 chip—with speeds of up to 1.6GHz and 3MB of cache—but the company plans to adopt the dual-core "Montecito" when Intel releases it in the middle of next year.


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