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HP takes its Nehalem server message up a level

HP's new server lineup based on Intel's Nehalem processor is a nice upgrade. But it also shows an HP less obsessed with speeds and feeds.

This is a big week for Intel processor-based server announcements. Intel is rolling out its new "Nehalem" Xeon 5500 processor for dual-socket servers, far and away the biggest chunk of the server market by volume.

As Brooke Crothers notes on this CNET Blog Network post, "Nehalem offers some important firsts for Intel, including an integrated memory controller for better performance, hyper-threading for up to 16 virtual cores (which improves multitasking), and Turbo Boost Technology, which dynamically increases the processor's frequency (speed), as needed."

Just about any new Intel Xeon processor is paired with a spate of server announcements--after all, it's the servers that most end users buy not the chips. However, because Nehalem gives the heart of the server market such a nice performance boost, this launch is bigger than most. All the big system suppliers are making significant product introductions.

Take HP, for example. Paul Gottsegan, who leads marketing for HP's Industry Standard Servers (ISS) group, described the launch of their new ProLiant (x86) servers to me as "the biggest announcement in 20 years for ISS."

What really struck me about the HP launch though wasn't its scope--broad though it was.

Rather, it was that HP didn't take it as an opportunity to pile on an endless litany of speeds and feeds. Sure, it provided me with specifications but in the vein of supporting data rather than the core of the announcement. HP similarly focused primarily on higher-level operational and business value messages at its Technology Solutions Group (TSG) industry analyst event in Boston last week. (TSG is the business unit within HP that includes servers, software, and service.)

Unsurprisingly, in the current climate, a lot of that value message is around doing more without spending more.

The HP ProLiant G6 line's advances in energy efficiency, virtualization and automation, make it ideal for all customers. These innovations are combined with comprehensive financing programs and service offerings to redefine server economics. The new HP ProLiant G6 servers are available in 11 standards-based tower, rack and blade platforms. This represents the largest HP ProLiant rollout in company history.

"Now more than ever, customers want the best possible return on their server investments," said Christine Reischl, senior vice president and general manager, Industry Standard Servers, HP. "Building on HP's long history of hardware and software development, G6 brings together the best HP innovations in energy efficiency, virtualization and services to enable our customers to do more with less."

Now, if you haven't been a longtime HP follower as I have, the fact that technology isn't front and center may seem unremarkable. Sure, IT vendors have a proclivity to getting lost down in the weeds. But the largest and most sophisticated of those vendors--of which HP is certainly one--do understand that customers buy outcomes rather than individual products.

However, HP as a whole has perhaps struggled more than most to build on, rather than lead with, a technology message. The company is, after all, in no small part an amalgam of very engineering-centric cultures--the old HP and Digital Equipment perhaps most of all. But also Compaq and Tandem in their own ways.

This is a solid server rollout. But it's also a clear indication of HP's evolution.