HP puts the power of NonStop on a blade

Hewlett-Packard announced on Monday the availability of its NonStop server technology in a blade format. The HP Integrity NonStop NB50000C will “fulfil the story we’ve had about ‘blade everything’ in the server space,” said Dick Bird, category manager for business critical servers for HP Canada.

Blades are essentially computers on a card, which mount in a chassis that provides power and network and external connections.

HP’s NonStop line, built on Intel Itanium processors, evolved from the Tandem NonStop architecture HP acquired in the purchase of Compaq in 2002. Compaq had acquired Tandem — originally a project of a group of HP engineers — in 1997.

The NonStop blade puts mainframe applications — heavily transactional with minimal downtime tolerance – into a blade chassis footprint, Bird said. Eight blades – each driven by eight Itanium processors – will fit into a single C7000 enclosure.

“You’re getting the (twice the) performance with half the footprint,” Bird said.

The NonStop operating system also takes full advantage of the dual-core nature of the processors, according to Bird.

The NonStop’s primary markets have been debit and credit processing and telco applications – “That’s their forte; that’s where they started 30 years ago,” said Bird – but are branching out into newer markets like health care, he said.

“We see a continuation of the customer base” that’s been using the NonStop to date, since using the same operating system makes it easier to migrate applications, Bird said.

IDC Canada analyst Jason Bremner agrees that maintaining the same operating system should contribute to compatibility and an easier migration. “A lot of the functionality of the NonStop is in the operating system,” Bremner said. “It’s certainly a good refresh product” and an opportunity to “leapfrog” for companies with aging NonStop servers.

The commodity Intel processors are driving down the price of such systems, which once were based on proprietary RISC chipsets, Bremner said. “You’re getting mainframe competition at a volume price point,” he said.

Blades bring a number of advantages in terms of footprint and power consumption, Bremner said. “Blades in general are appealing because of the form factor,” he said.

HP is using a common backbone across its blade products, which includeUnix and x86 servers and storage products, Bremner said. “They’re having standardized components across their blade portfolio,” he said. This allows companies to mix and match components within the same chassis. Companies are already putting Unix and x86 servers into the same chassis, he said.

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