Multiprocessor Offering Demonstrates HP's Sixth Sense

Hewlett-Packard Co. took a giant leap into an unfilled and untested hardware niche with the unveiling of two new six-way servers, priced comparably with four-way offerings.

While Hewlett-Packard (HP, www.hp.com) is touting the performance gains of adding two processors, the computer giant also added storage capabilities. Analysts say this addition increases the value of the solutions to data warehouse and e-commerce sites.

HP says its six-way servers -- dubbed NetServer LH 6000 and LT 6000r -- deliver more than a 30 percent performance boost compared with conventional four-way servers running Windows NT. Windows 2000 configurations are also available "out of the box," says Mari Young, product marketing manager at HP. "We want to drive home the message that the customer is getting six-way performance at four-way prices," Young says. Typical solutions require jumping to pricier eight-way chassis, she notes.

HP offers an eight-way server -- its LXr 8500 -- but the company is seeking to provide a cost-effective upgrade path for four-way users. "They're really not looking at the eight-way market with this space; they're trying to get the four-way market to buy up," says Kelly Spang, analyst at Technology Business Research Inc. (www.tbri.com). "The four-way server has done quite well for them. What they're trying to do is give four-way customers that don't want to go to an eight-way a way to get more performance."

At the time the product was launched in March, benchmark comparisons were only available for Windows NT 4.0 Server, Enterprise Edition. "We didn't want to do an apples-to-oranges comparison with Windows 2000," Young says. "The only reasons the benchmarks show NT is because we want to make sure we're doing a performance comparison against something that customers already understand."

HP anticipates that while most sales will be with Windows NT loaded, more customers will buy the six-ways with Windows 2000 than buy four-ways with Windows 2000. "There are a lot of environments where people aren't basically signed up to go the Active Directory route at this time. Plus, uptime is very good with the last two service packs on NT 4.0."

HP has independent test numbers showing TPC-C performance 30 percent higher than Compaq ProLiant 6400r four-way servers and 99 percent higher than Sun Enterprise 450 servers. With these results, HP hopes to demonstrate performance increases with the additional processors, particularly with Windows NT, Spang says.

There are other benefits provided by these servers. Spang says, "While the number of processors is interesting, the density of HP's offerings with its packaging, as well as the expandability, are critical selling points for enterprise customers."

The LH 6000 also includes 8 GB of PC 133-MHz SDRAM, eight 64-bit I/O slots, and up to 12 internal Ultra2 SCSI drives. The system also includes a NetRAID controller for managing storage sites.

HP is offering a rebate for the two extra processors in its systems, which will last through July. Customers with four-way NetServers have the option of swapping out boards and power supplies in their current hardware, Young says.

"You're getting two additional CPUs basically for free," Spang explains. "It's an interesting promotion, because the six-way market is really not tested. The only other six-way server from [Advanced Logic Research] never amounted to much."

With a company with as much weight as HP coming onto the market, six-way servers may become a hotter commodity. "They're using an industry-standard chipset, and it's very likely that other companies such as IBM, Dell and even Compaq could follow suit with six-way processors," Spang says.

HP also announced additional SAN solutions with its HP SureStore E Disk Array FC60 and enhancements to HP SureStore Tape Libraries. The FC60, announced last August, is a midrange disk array that scales up to 60 hard-disk drives and 4.4 terabytes of raw storage capacity. Beginning in May, the FC60 will be able to support up to eight HP NetServer systems in SAN configurations.

"With NetServer, they're actually tying in their enterprise storage strategy," Spang says. "HP is looking at it from a complete view of what mission-critical platforms require, in terms of expandability, manageability, and storage."