Itanium 2 Powers Four HP Systems to New Heights

HP is gambling that the new chip will offer unbeatable price/performance advantages.

Hewlett-Packard Co. today announced four new workstations and servers featuring Intel Corp.s Itanium 2 processor and touted record-setting performance results that it contends supports its decision to migrate all of its high-end systems to the 64-bit processor.

HP, which co-developed Itanium, is gambling that the new chip, first introduced to the market last year, will offer unbeatable price/performance advantages that will ultimately draw customers away from market leader Sun Microsystems Inc. and close Unix rival IBM.

As part of its commitment to Itanium, HP has announced it will phase out production of its own proprietary 64-bit chips that currently power its top-performing servers, the PA-RISC and Alpha processor lines.

While PA-RISC and Alpha processors still offer highly competitive performance, HP executives said the computer maker thinks the RISC-based chips are nearing the end of their life spans.

"Basically, our RISC architectures have been available since the mid-80s; we had projected a 20-year life for that, and were coming up on the 20 years in the 05 and 06 time frame," said Mark Hudson, worldwide marketing manager of HP Business Critical Systems, in a conference call with industry analysts and reporters today. "Whats the next architecture that will carry us for the next 20 years? We believe that itll be Itanium."

HP also contends the chip, which features a new architecture called Explicit Parallel Instruction Computing (EPIC), is better suited for processing existing and developing business applications, such as Internet-based workloads.

"The Itanium architecture has been specifically designed to handle these kinds of capabilities, whether it is for media streaming, secure Web transactions or handling basically massive, massive amounts of data," Hudson said.

The computer maker, based in Palo Alto, Calif., also contends competitors will be hard-pressed to match the price/performance of the chip, with Intel offering the chip at prices thousands of dollars below that of Sun and IBM.

The new Itanium 2 chip, introduced today, is being offered in three configurations: a 1GHz design with 3MB of Level 3 on-die memory cache priced at $4,226; a 1GHz version with 1.5MB of Level 3 cache for $2,247; and a 900MHz design with 3MB of Level 3 cache priced at $1,338.

HPs four new Itanium 2-based systems offerings are:

  • HP Workstation zx2000, powered by a single 900MHz Itanium 2 chip, priced starting at $4,500;
  • HP Workstation zx6000, capable of handling up to two 1GHz Itanium 2 chips, priced starting at $6,400;
  • HP Server rx2600, capable of handling up to two 1GHz Itanium 2 processors, priced starting at $7,300; and
  • HP Server rx5670, capable of handling up to four 1GHz Itanium 2 processors, priced starting at $23,400.

In addition to announcing the new systems, HP heralded select benchmark scores that it contends show its hardware offering best-in-class performance.

Among the results:

  • The rx5670 delivered the best four-way results on the SAP R/3 Sales and Distribution two-tier benchmark. The server also posted the best result on the SPECweb99 SSL benchmark tests, used to measure secure Web serving capabilities.
  • The rx2600 server posted top two-way and four-way performance on TPC-C benchmark tests, used to rate system capacity to handle simultaneous transactions.
  • The zx6000 workstation achieved the fastest results on the SPECfbbase 2000 measuring floating-point performance, a capability valued in three-dimensional modeling.

(Further test results and details on the benchmarks listed are available on HPs Web site,

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