Companies Recast Platforms for Workload Consolidations

Part 3: HP to facilitate HP-UX, Windows, Linux consolidations on SuperDome systems

In past two issues we've looked at solutions from IBM and Unisys. In this, the third and final part of our series, we look at Hewlett Packard.

In 2003, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) will deliver the next revision of its PA-RISC processor, the PA-8800, which is based on a system bus that can support either PA-RISC or Intel Corp's next-generation Itanium chip, code-named “Madison.”

According to John Miller, director of server marketing for business critical systems with HP, customers will be able to move from PA-RISC to Itanium—or vice-versa—if they so choose.

“This enables board upgrades to our existing PA-RISC product, so you literally swap out your PA processors and processor boards, and you swap in the new [IA-64] processor boards. This gives our customers the flexibility to move to [IA-64] when they want to.”

Unlike IBM’s iSeries or Unisys’ ClearPath mainframe and ES7000 systems, however, customers will not be able to configure HP’s servers with mixed proprietary and Itanium processor architectures. Instead, HP will offer customers the ability to run either PA-RISC or Itanium in its high-end servers.

In HP systems that have been populated with Itanium chips, however, customers will be able to configure partitions of mixed HP-UX, Linux and Windows 2000 or Windows .NET Server operating environments. In this regard, says Miller, HP has a powerful server consolidation strategy. “This is a proposition that we feel best addresses the needs of our customers. If they want, customers can swap out their existing [PA processors and processor boards] and swap in the new PA processors and processor boards. When they are ready, they can move to Itanium and partition HP-UX, Linux and Windows on the same hardware.”

HP’s Itanium roll-out has thus far been limited. The Unix kingpin shipped a 16-way Itanium 1 server in 2001 – the RX 110 – but has thus far marketed only two- and four-way Itanium 2 servers. With the release of “Madison” in 2003, however, HP will introduce Itanium 2 for the first time in its high-end systems, including the 64-way SuperDome. The company also plans to introduce larger SuperDome systems of up to 128 processors by 2004. According to Miller, this means that HP will be able to support massive consolidations of HP-UX, Linux and Windows workloads on its systems.

Rob Enderle, a senior fellow with consultancy Giga Information Group, agrees that HP’s server consolidation strategy is potentially compelling, but points out that Itanium’s applicability for Linux and Windows workloads could be limited by the paucity of 64-bit applications written for Windows. “Don’t forget, Itanium 1 ran 32-bit code very slowly, and Itanium 2 hasn’t improved significantly on that performance. The vast majority of Windows [programs] are 32-bit, so unless these customers are hosting 64-bit Windows applications, there may not be an incentive to consolidate [distributed Windows servers on Itanium 2].”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.