HP, Lenovo Offer High-End Servers Based on New Intel Xeon E7 Chips

The new systems are aimed at the growing range of compute-intensive workloads, such as big data analytics and SAP's HANA in-memory platform.

HP ProLiant server

Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo are rolling out new and enhanced high-end servers aimed at compute-intensive workloads such as SAP's HANA in-memory platform.

The new systems, announced May 5, coincide with Intel's launch of its latest high-end server chip, the Xeon E7 v3 processor, which officials with the giant chip maker said offers six times the performance of its predecessor and can scale up to 18 cores and 12TB of memory.

HP is unveiling a range of compute platforms for high-end applications in its Apollo, Integrity Superdome X and ProLiant Gen 9 server families that leverage both the new Xeon E7 and recent Xeon E5 v3 processors. For its part, Lenovo, at its Sapphire Now conference in Orlando, Fla., is introducing an array of workload-optimized systems aimed at organizations deploying the SAP HANA technology and that are built on Lenovo's System x3850 and x3950 servers that run on the new Xeon E7 chips.

The new systems come as workloads like big data analytics and databases are fueling an increasing demand for more powerful servers with four or more sockets. The growing performance, scalability and reliability in Intel's high-end x86 server chips are enabling OEMs to make more powerful servers that offer competitive performance and better economics than Unix-based systems powered by such processor platforms as IBM's Power and Oracle's SPARC.

Two-socket systems will continue to be the most popular in the x86 server space, but businesses are looking for x86-based alternatives to the more expensive RISC platforms. According to IDC analysts, revenue for x86 servers in fourth-quarter 2014 grew 7.l percent over the same period a year before, to $11.5 billion, and shipments jumped 2.9 percent. Non-x86 servers saw continued revenue decline, falling in the quarter by 14 percent year-over-year, to $3 billion, accounting for 20.7 percent of all server revenue, IDC said in a report in March. It was the 14th consecutive quarter of decline in revenue for the market segment.

Though the Unix server space continues to shrink, it's still a $9 billion market that offers a significant growth opportunity for server makers like HP, Lenovo and Dell. HP plays in both worlds, with its x86 offerings as well as its high-end Integrity systems based on Intel's Itanium platform. Dell last week announced PowerEdge servers based on the new Xeon E7 v3 processors. Lenovo became the world's third-largest server vendor when it bought IBM's x86-based server business last year for $2.1 billion.

The shrinking Unix market offers Lenovo the chance to build on that momentum "as customers migrate their applications and want to scale up to four to eight sockets," Stuart Mcrae, director of enterprise server marketing at Lenovo, told eWEEK. "It gives us lots of headroom to grow. It's from the two-way segment. The two-way segment is very broad."

The market for systems with four or more sockets is fairly specific in the high-end, mission-critical applications that define it, from databases and analytics to enterprise-resource management (ERP) and customer-relationship management (CRM), Mcrae said.

Jeff Kyle, director of product management for mission-critical systems at HP, said it's becoming increasingly important to look at the workloads rather than the servers themselves.

"I don't look at it as a Unix market," Kyle told eWEEK. "I don't look at it like a Linux market. I don't look at it like a Windows market. I look at the applications [the businesses are] running."

The key for vendors is to have a broad array of systems that can fit the workload demands the customer is facing, he said. It won't work "if you have a one-size-fits-all approach and don't understand what the customer wants to do."