HP stacks server line with AMD chips

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) last month unveiled its latest server line which features ramped-up dual-core processors from chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD).

The new processors for the Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor’s line of ProLiant servers include three models of AMD’s dual-core Opteron design: 185, 285 and 885. All three are designed to increase performance while holding power consumption at 95 watts or below. Model 185 is made for smaller servers and workstations, while Model 285 is meant for high-performance workstations and Model 885 for enterprise-class servers.

This year marks the 10th anniversary since HP started using AMD processors within the Proliant servers, says Michael Hughes, director, Personal Systems Group at HP Canada in Mississauga, Ont. HP also launched its first AMD-based thin client, says Hughes. The HP Compaq t5720 features an AMD NX 1500 Geode processor based on AMD’s mobile, low power consumption Athlon processor technology.

According to Garth Reid, server product manager for HP Canada, the upgrades affect all three blade servers and all three stand-alone servers. The processors are featured in six servers in its ProLiant line: the DL145, DL385 and DL585 rack-based, density-optimized servers, and BL25p, BL35p and BL45p blades.

HP customer Teligence Communications Inc. is a Vancouver-based vendor which develops telecommunications network and custom software to provide an environment for people to chat and connect with local singles. The company develops voice-enabled services for social networking and entertainment in North America. Teligence recently standardized on ProLiant DL385 and DL585 models, featuring the AMD Opteron processor.

According to Mario Angers, IT manager for Teligence, the firm is currently experiencing a growth period and the biggest challenge is maintaining a high level of network uptime. The various chatline and dating services owned by Teligence and its subsidiaries average 620,000 calls per day. Consumers pay fees for their telephone time, which makes up a large chunk of the firm’s revenue.

“One of the things we were looking at was increasing fault tolerance on our production database, which is essentially where all our customer records reside,” says Angers.

In terms of infrastructure, Teligence has close to 250 servers in the Vancouver data centre in addition to a Toronto-based disaster recovery facility where HP blade technologies and VMware virtualization software are used to replicate the services.

“Indirectly, we also wanted to increase performance, which was always an issue for us.” The firm looked at clustering its database and, after looking at various options, selected the HP ProLiant servers based on the AMD processors with the mindset that the technology better met its performance, price and scalability expectations, says Angers.

“What we really liked [about AMD] was we could go from single-core to dual-core without any significant changes to the box. We could also have a lot more memory in the box, at less of a cost than the Intel processor.”

Reid says HP is still committed to its Xeon-based processors from Intel Corp. in order to offer its customers a choice. The vendors also announced plans to improve its Intel-based servers as soon as Intel releases its new family of Dempsey and Woodcrest chips.

According to Gary Chen, an analyst with Boston-based Yankee Group, the ProLiant server upgrade isn’t really a huge difference in the overall scheme of things; it’s basically just one speed grade (2.4 to 2.6GHz). “Certainly it’s a nice speed bump, but it’s a fairly natural evolution of the product line,” Chan told Networld World Canada.

Even though they have good Opteron partners in HP and Sun, it’s a slow and steady fight for AMD in terms of over market share — Intel is still very much entrenched in the enterprise space, says Chen. “It doesn’t really change anything compared to Intel, as the Opteron has already been outperforming the Xeon while using less power and being cheaper for some time now.”

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