HP unveils Opteron plans

Hewlett-Packard Co. on Tuesday became the third major server vendor to announce products based on Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s Opteron processor, joining IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc.

IBM and Sun unveiled their Opteron plans last year.

AMD’s Opteron is an evolution of the x86 architecture that boosts the performance of 32-bit environments, while providing a path to future 64-bit environments.

HP unveiled new servers featuring the Opteron processor, which are available for order immediately and outlined plans to support Intel’s Xeon 64-bit extensions when they come out later this year.

“We’re really beginning to push the limit of what can be achieved by 32-bit,” said Scott Stallard, senior vice-president and general manager of enterprise storage and servers for HP. “That’s what our customers have been telling us.”

The first Opteron server HP will debut is the ProLiant DL145, a two-processor box, slated for a Q1 release. It will be followed by the ProLiant DL585, a four-processor box with 64GB of memory in Q2.

John Enck, a senior vice-president with IT consultancy Gartner, said 64-bit extensions are needed in the server market.

“We believe it augments existing 32-bit technology, but we don’t see it as particularly disruptive,” he said. “We don’t see it as replacing Itanium, or as a RISC-killing technology.”

With the 64-bit extensions, customers will be able to add more processing headroom by running a 64-bit operating system and provide more addressing space for memory-hungry applications like Microsoft Exchange, Enck explained.

He believes the sweetspot for the 64-bit extension servers will be in the one- to four-processor market, with Itanium continuing to be more successful in higher end configurations.

“I think that what’s most unique about this architecture is that you’re not forced to make a decision up front,” he said “If you want to continue running a 32-bit operating system and 32-bit applications, that’s fine. If you want to run 64-bit operating systems and 32-bit applications, that’s fine too.”

Steve Shaw, business development manager for business critical systems for HP Canada, described the move to 64-bit extensions as a natural evolution in the server market.

“The nice thing about the Opteron announcement today is we think it’s going to help accelerate the 64-bit marketplace,” he said.

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