HP, NEC Partner on Mission-Critical x86 Servers

The vendors will help propel HP’s Project Odyssey, an effort to enable x86 systems to run in the same enclosure with Itanium-based servers.

Hewlett-Packard is turning to longtime hardware partner NEC to help push forward its vision of running x86-based blade servers alongside its Itanium-based Integrity systems.

The two vendors, which have been working together since 1995 on high-end, mission-critical systems based on HP-UX—HP’s Unix-based operating system—are expanding their focus to include x86 systems running Microsoft’s Windows and Linux.

The expanded joint engineering alliance, announced July 22, will help HP push forward Project Odyssey, an initiative announced in November 2011 that is designed to bring mission-critical capabilities to x86-based server blades powered by Intel Xeon processors to enable them to integrate with the vendor’s high-end Unix-based servers, which run on Intel’s Itanium processor platform.

There are a range of efforts under the Project Odyssey umbrella, including one called “DragonHawk,” where Xeon-based x86 blades running Windows or Linux will be able to run side-by-side in the same Superdome 2 enclosure with Itanium servers running HP-UX. Through Odyssey and DragonHawk, HP officials are looking for ways to give enterprises a wider choice of solutions—not only of servers, but also operating systems and software—on which to run their mission-critical environments, according to Mark Potter, senior vice president and general manager of servers at HP.

“Performance and reliability are vital to mission-critical computing clients and the business-critical workloads they will deploy into the next decade,” Potter said in a statement. “By aligning our expertise, HP and NEC will drive enterprise server technology forward, allowing our joint clients to protect and grow their current and future investments.”

The systems will be designed to handle growing amounts of data and the increasing demand from organizations for infrastructure uptime fueled by such trends as mobility, cloud computing, big data and social media, according to officials.

HP and NEC will work on future enhancements to HP-UX and to growing the mission-critical computing capabilities of x86 through aligned technical, engineering and joint testing of high-end solutions for Linux and Windows, according to the companies.

“As computing demands continue to rise, our customers need access to the latest server technology on a shortened timetable with ease of deployment,” Shinichi Shoji, executive vice president at NEC, said in a statement. “Based on more than two decades of collaboration to meet the rising needs of mission-critical customers, NEC and HP are poised to combine our resources to provide additional functionality.”

The two companies in the past have collaborated on HP-UX, HP’s Integrity systems and NEC’s NX7700i systems, which are powered by Itanium.

Project Odyssey was one of three initiatives introduced by HP in November as part of a larger effort to design systems aimed at particular environments and workloads. Through Project Moonshot, HP is working to create a portfolio of highly dense, low-power servers that can handle the massive numbers of small workloads being processed in huge data centers run by companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft.

The initial systems out of Moonshot will run on Intel’s low-power Atom chips, but upcoming systems also will be powered by processors from Advanced Micro Devices and chip vendors such as Calxeda and Marvell Technology, which leverage system-on-a-chip (SoC) designs from ARM.

Through Project Voyager, HP is looking to bring greater intelligence and automation into enterprise systems, as illustrated by the ProLiant Gen8 servers released by HP last year.