CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Desktops

HP, Sun bring dual-core Opterons to servers

HP upgrades four-processor server with AMD's new dual-core Opteron. Sun, too, makes four into eight.

Hewlett-Packard has upgraded a four-processor server with Advanced Micro Devices' new dual-core Opteron and introduced a blade server with the chip.

The ProLiant DL585 system will be available with all three speed grades of the new Opteron--1.8Gz, 2.0GHz and 2.2GHz--said Steve Cumings, manager of HP's ProLiant Opteron systems group. And in an effort to encourage fast adoption, HP is charging the same for a system with 1.8GHz dual-core processors as it would for the existing products with 2.6GHz single-core chips.

"We expect to gain a lot of market share with this kind of pricing. It's a way to capture market share while we can," Cumings said.

The new BL45p blade system, announced Thursday, is HP's first four-Opteron blade and it brings a substantial change: It's half the size of the existing Xeon model. Four machines can fit into a 10.5-inch-tall chassis compared with two Xeon-based BL40p models.

But IBM is still ahead: Its 12.25-inch tall BladeCenter can house seven four-Xeon blades. Big Blue is expected to announce its first Opteron blades alongside AMD's launch of the dual-core chips on Thursday.

Sun Microsystems, meanwhile, introduced The Sun Fire V40z server, which contains four dual-core processors and hence functions like a typical eight-processor server. Sun says the machine is designed to run on 42 percent of the power it would require to animate an equivalent server with eight Xeon processors.

The server will start shipping in May. A version of the V40z with the four Opteron 875 chips and 16GB of memory will sell for about $39,000.

Dual-core chips combine two processing engines, or cores, onto a single slice of silicon in an attempt to increase performance without causing heating problems. They're best suited to server software, which more often is written to take advantage of the ability to handle multiple simultaneous tasks. IBM, Sun Microsystems and HP already offer dual-core chips for their Unix servers, but the technology is just arriving in mainstream x86 chips.

The first dual-core Opterons are series 800 models geared to four-processor systems. HP servers with the chips are due to ship in late May, Cumings said, but by the end of June, HP will release servers with the dual-core series 200 chips for dual-processor systems.

"We are going to refresh our entire line with dual-core," Cumings said. "We'll have it in dual-processor blades, the DL385 and the DL145."

Dual-core gives a significant performance boost, Cuming said. For example, a four-processor model with 2.2GHz dual-core chips scores 75 percent faster on a speed test using SAP's business software than a system with four 2.6GHz single-core processors. In addition, he said, "Dual-core Opteron has a huge performance advantage over Xeon," at least until Intel catches up with its own dual-core models.

HP won't release dual-core pricing details until the systems ship, but if HP holds to its promise that 1.8GHz dual-core systems will cost the same as those with 2.6GHz single-core chips, some guesses can be made. A DL585 with four 2.6GHz single-core processors, 8GB of memory and a 36GB 15K SCSI drive costs $24,755. And HP said a BL45p with two 2.6GHz single-core processors, 4GB of memory and two 36GB 15K SCSI drives costs $11,895.

The latest change
The arrival of dual-core Opterons is only the latest upheaval the processor line has triggered in the server realm.

The first affected was Intel, which for years had the x86 server market to itself. But with much of its energy focused on a rival chip family called Itanium, Intel lagged AMD. Its first x86 chips with 64-bit features--which permit easy use of more than 4GB of memory--arrived more than a year later than Opteron, and it doesn't expect to introduce dual-core Xeons until early 2006. It still hasn't said when it will release a chip with built-in memory controller, a feature that many say is fundamental to Opteron's performance.

Server makers adjusted, too. IBM was the first, adopting the processor but only promoting it for use in systems for the high-performance technical computing niche.

Next came Sun, which had shunned x86 processors for years, then used Opteron to spearhead its entry into the market. It even went as far as acquiring start-up Kealia--and its key employee, Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim--for new Opteron systems code-named Galaxy.

Then another significant ally: HP, which had co-developed a rival Intel 64-bit processor, Itanium, which was largely incompatible with software written for x86 chips such as Xeon or Opteron.

The only holdout among the top four server makers is Dell, which has come close to an AMD partnership but which remains the staunchest Intel ally.