HP unveils new entry-level Unix server

The new HP 9000 L-class family of entry-level Unix servers features a compact design, up to four-way processing capability and high-availability features usually found only in high-end systems, according to Hewlett-Packard Co.

The L-class family consists of two models: the L1000, which can scale up to two 360MHz or 440MHz PA-RISC 8500 microprocessors; and the L2000, which scales up to four 360MHz or 440MHz PA-RISC 8500 chips. Both have been designed to provide future upgradability to next-generation PA-RISC chips or the IA-64 processor expected to ship next year.

“This system is going to go through multiple future generations of PA-RISC right up to IA-64 in the same chassis,” said Todd Thiemann, marketing programs manager for HP’s North American Marketing Center in Cupertino, Calif. This “board-upgradability” to IA-64 was first introduced in April with the launch of the HP 9000 N-class server, Thiemann explained, making the L-class the second HP system to provide this capability.

Available in a rack-mount or stand-alone configuration, the L-class has a 7u form factor, enabling customers to put five of the L-class servers into a two-metre rack, Thiemann said.

“A lot of our customers have floor-space concerns…because they’ve got boxes that are proliferating like rabbits and they’re running out of floor space,” Thiemann said. “This is a very simple, elegant solution that allows you to use your floor space effectively.”

The maximum configuration for an L1000 would include up to 4GB of memory, five PCI slots and 72GB of internal storage capacity. The L2000 can be scaled up to 8GB memory, 10 PCI slots and 72GB internal storage. This is actually more internal storage capacity than HP’s high-end N-class system, said Steve Shaw, enterprise systems program manager for Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Ltd. in Mississauga, Ont.

Bundled-in Internet functionality includes HP’s WebQoS software, remote management capability via HP’s Secure Web Console, optimized Java performance and HP E-speak middleware.

High-availability features in both L-class models include redundant power supplies and fans, hot-plug PCI capability and support for HP’s high-availability clustering software, allowing up to 16 L-class servers to be connected in a cluster. These features set the L-class apart from HP’s previous entry-level Unix servers, the D-class and R-class systems, according to Thiemann.

“In terms of availability, to be honest, we’ve been criticized in the past with the D-class and the R-class,” Thiemann said. “They were very, very successful systems for us, but people said, ‘Nice box, but what if you had multiple fans, and what about multiple power supplies?’ And we didn’t have that. We do now.”

These high-availability features are what HP 9000 customer Martha Baron finds attractive about the L-class server. Baron is director of information services for Carnegie Mellon University, located in Pittsburgh.

“Like a lot of other people, our mission-critical applications are now Web applications,” Baron said. “And so, that is very interesting to us, having high-availability features in a machine that I see classed as a good Web server.”

Carnegie Mellon currently uses a higher-end HP 9000 K-class server as a Web server.

“We’ve probably oversized it a bit,” Baron said. “Not knowing exactly what to expect in Web applications, we scaled it up very high.”

She said the university will probably remove the K-class as the Web server in the spring, and the L-class may be the best replacement.

“It seems the right size, it still can be scaled up, and it has the high-availability features that are important to us now.”

The K-class server will most likely be moved into a disaster recovery site, as a back-up system to another of the high-end HP 9000 servers used at the university, Baron explained.

“The other interesting point about the L-class, and HP in general, is the migration to IA-64,” Baron said. “We don’t have a specific date at which we plan to migrate to that, we’re sort of keeping our options open, but we’re interested in probably moving in that direction at some point. The fact that the L-class will be compatible with the IA-64 architecture is critical to us as well.”

The L1000’s list price starts at just less than US$16,000 for a base system with one 360MHz PA-RISC 8500 CPU, 256MB of memory and a single 9GB disk. The same configuration for the L2000 lists at just less than US$22,000.

HP Canada is at 1-800-387-3867 or www.canada.hp.com.