HP calls new workstations ‘stimulus for the enterprise’

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Hewlett Packard Co. (NASDAQ: HPQ) has refreshed its high-end, high-performance workstation line with the launch of its new HP Z Series workstations. Designed to leverage the power of Intel Corp.‘s new Xeon 5500 processors, the vendor says the completely redesigned workstations offer compelling efficiencies in productivity and IT management.

The Z workstations feature the new Intel Xeon processor 5500 series with integrated memory controllers and Intel Turbo Boost Technology, built-in high-definition audio and an option for solid-state drives, and include three models:

*The entry level HP Z400 starts at US$969 and is aimed at professionals working in video editing, photography, design and engineering. The first single-socket workstation based on Intel’s Nahalem architecture, the Z400 also comes with a liquid-cooling option.

*The mid-level HP Z600 starts at US$1,679 and balances size and performance for professionals in industries such as video production, finance and midrange CAD, supporting up to eight displays.

*The high-end HP Z800 starts at US$1,999 and is designed for users working with applications such as 3-D animation, broadcast video, oil and gas discovery, and medical imaging. The quad-core machine also leverages the new Intel QuickPath Technology, and comes with a liquid-cooling option.

The performance and productivity gains enabled by the new workstations make the Z Series “a stimulus package for the enterprise,” said Jim Zafarana, vice-president and general manager of HP’s workstation global business unit. When you do the math, he said, the new workstations can pay for themselves in one to three months, depending on the workflow.

“We really believe in the midst of the most competitive economic environment most people in this room have ever seem, productivity should be at the forefront of our minds,” said Zafarana. “More than ever, in this kind of economy, we believe our customers need to improve their productivity, to get a great return on their innovation resources. Our new HP Z workstations were designed from the core out to completely change the workstation experience, both in levels of performance, reliability and innovation.”

In addition to performance improvements, the new systems offer improved energy efficiency, including an 89-per-cent-efficient power supply on the Z800, and the line has achieved Energy Star 5.0 certification.

The Z Series also integrates several design innovations designed to allow for easier maintenance, upgradability and portability. For example, handles have been integrated into the box because HP heard from customers that they’re regularly moving their workstations to set up new project teams. Also, the power supply can be popped out by the user and plugged into a wall. A green light will shine if the power supply is functioning and if it’s not, a replacement can be shipped and installed by the user, without an IT support call.

“It’s important these systems are very easy to service and very reliable,” said Zafarana. “We’ve designed these in a modular fashion so the IT person can go in, upgrade or reconfigure the systems with just a touch of their hands as their project needs change.”

A modular design has also been employed inside the chassis that reduces cabling, and allows components to be swapped in and out without tools.

“As we surveyed our customers, many told us when they go in and try to upgrade or reconfigure a competitive system they’ll have cuts on their hands. They’ll literally bleed,” said Zafarana. “That won’t happen with our design. This system is designed for the one tool we all carry with us: our hands. It’s tool-less. It’s very intuitive.”

The Z Series workstations have caught the eye of Space Exploration Technologies Corp., the space transportation company founded by PayPal co-founder Eldon Musk that is developing partially reusable launch vehicles to place satellites into orbit and potentially deliver cargo to the International Space Station. HP is already a technology partner of SpaceX, providing everything from printers and servers to laptops and workstations.

“This is rocket science, and the demand for us is not only for great performance but also for reliability. That’s why I feel we couldn’t have gotten this far without the partnership with HP,” said SpaceX CIO Branden Spikes. “Virtually every development environment in our company uses HP workstations, so the faster and more reliable these devices are improves our bottom line.”

Spikes has been benchmarking the Z series workstations with its current HP xw machines and he said he’s projecting a 45 per cent productivity improvement with the Z series, with another five per cent when solid state drives (SSD) are used.

“I’ve been very impressed with its performance,” said Spikes, noting the Z800 with SSD does 15 minutes worth of work in nine minutes compared to the xw. “It means our developers can get more work done. I think the z800 is definitely going to replace the xw for us and its definitely going to improve our bottom line.”

Guillaume Jacquemin, IT manager for the ING Renault F1 racing team, echoed Spikes’ predictions of productivity improvements, adding the design of the Z Series workstations will mean less time spent by his organization on maintenance and support, as well as a quieter work environment for the team’s engineers and designers.

“We take great care in the work environment and believe with this improvement in acoustics it will reduce the noise in our offices and create a less stressful environment, which we believe will benefit the innovation they bring to the car,” said Jacquemin.

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