HP updates low-end Itanium servers

Two dual-processor models flesh out HP's Itanium-based Integrity line, and new HP-UX boosts software performance.

Hewlett-Packard announced two dual-processor Itanium servers Thursday, along with a faster version of Unix to run on the systems.

The two systems--a blade server and a 3.5-inch rack-mount model--round out a line of HP Integrity servers that use Intel's latest Itanium 2 90000 "Montecito" processor, which in 2006 became the first dual-core member of the Intel family.

The systems use very similar electronics and can accommodate two 1.6GHz chips, but the rack-mounted Integrity rx2660 accommodates up to 32GB of memory, while the Integrity BL860c blade accommodates up to 48GB, according to HP. The rx2660 starts at $4,931 and is available now; the BL860c--which fits only into HP's c-Class BladeSystem chassis, launched in 2006--starts at $3,827 and is set to be available in March.

Although the vast majority of HP's Itanium servers run the company's version of Unix, HP-UX, the processors also run Windows, Linux and two higher-end but relatively uncommon HP operating systems, NonStop Kernel and OpenVMS. HP on Tuesday announced its HP-UX 11i version 3, which the company says runs software 20 percent to 35 percent faster than does version 2.

HP-UX 11i version 3 runs software faster, in part, because of HP's work on its Itanium compiler, software that translates human-written source code into binary instructions the computer can understand. One of the initial promises of Itanium was greater performance because the compiler would optimize code for swift execution, but fulfilling that promise has taken longer than initially hoped.

Although Intel's initial Itanium stumbles led the chipmaker to reposition it as a high-end server chip, HP and some other server companies also sell lower-end machines. The bulk of the low-end server market goes to machines using x86 processors such as Intel's Xeon and Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron, but HP, IBM and Sun Microsystems continue to offer Unix systems as an alternative for customers who need higher reliability, more virtualization options and Unix software.

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