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HP unveils four-Opteron server

Hewlett-Packard begins selling a four-Opteron server, its second model to use the Advanced Micro Devices processor, and brings the chip into its high-performance technical computing line.

Hewlett-Packard has begun selling a four-Opteron server, its second model to use the Advanced Micro Devices processor, and has brought the chip into its high-performance technical computing line.

The ProLiant DL585 can accommodate as much as 64GB of memory; prices range from $8,299 for a system with two 1.6GHz chips and 2GB of memory to $22,396 with four 2.2GHz chips and 4GB of memory. The machine joins the dual-processor DL145, which HP debuted in February and which now can be bought as part of a technical computing "cluster" system as well as on its own.

The Opteron processor has vaulted AMD to the front lines of the competition between IBM, HP and Sun Microsystems--three of the top four server makers. The processor can run software written for "x86" chips such as Intel's Xeon and AMD's Athlon, but it also sports high performance and adds 64-bit features that enable easier access to more than 4GB of memory.

Opteron is on the eve of its first anniversary, but Intel is following with its own 64-bit extensions to its x86 line--scheduled to debut later this quarter in Xeon processors code-named Nocona. The 64-bit x86 chips compete somewhat with Intel's higher-end 64-bit processor, Itanium, which HP initiated and also supports, but which today doesn't gracefully run x86 software.

Software must be reworked to take advantage of 64-bit x86 extensions, but support is starting to arrive. VMware, an EMC subsidiary whose software can let a server run several operating systems simultaneously, announced Monday that its products will support the 64-bit extensions within 18 months. Experimental support will arrive sooner in its workstation product, VMware added.

Sun, which for years shunned x86 chips in favor of its own UltraSparc models, is using the Opteron to try to distinguish itself in the x86 server market. Last week Sun completed the acquisition of Kealia, a start-up launched by Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim that specializes in Opteron servers.

Bechtolsheim is reclaiming his employee No. 1 badge at Sun as well as the title of senior vice president and chief architect in Sun's Network Systems organization, under the new management of John Fowler.

Unlike HP, IBM and Dell, Sun is pushing its own version of Unix for x86 servers, called Solaris. On Monday, it unveiled a new promotion to try to spur more adoption.

The promotion, which runs from April 27 to Dec. 31, lets customers spend $50,000 per year for 100 copies of Solaris x86 and an accompanying standard support package. A subscription for 500 copies costs $225,000, and one for 2,000 copies costs $800,000, Sun said Monday.

The price is designed to appeal to Linux and Windows customers, Sun said. "This promotion makes Solaris the most competitively priced OS on x86 systems," John Loiacono, Sun's new executive vice president of software, said in a statement.

The promotion is the latest example of Sun's attempt to get more of its money from subscriptions and other recurring revenue sources. Customers who sign up for the subscription can renew for two more years after the first, Sun said.

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