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HP's Itanium blade due in early 2006

Move will put HP-UX version of Unix on BladeSystem products--servers available today only with x86 processors.

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

Hewlett-Packard will begin selling next year its first blade servers that use Intel's Itanium processor, the company announced Tuesday.

As expected, the move means the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company will be able to offer its HP-UX version of Unix on its BladeSystem products. Those servers today are available only with x86 processors--Intel's Xeon and Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron--and can run Linux and Windows.

HP's Integrity BL60p accommodates two "Madison 9M" Itanium chips, the current top-end model that has 9MB of on-board cache memory. A model with two 1.6GHz chips, 4GB of memory, two hard drives and an HP-UX license will cost $5,695, the company said. Through partitioning features available on the system, a single blade can be divided to run as many as six separate instances of HP-UX 11i v2.

Although Itanium servers can run Windows and Linux, those operating systems won't be supported until the second half of HP's next fiscal year, which ends Oct. 31, 2006.

Server makers are interested in the market as a way to stand above the herd of mainstream servers and to tap into a business that's growing 10 times faster than the overall server market. In the second quarter of 2005, blade server revenue grew 49 percent to $419 million compared with 4.7 percent growth to $12.2 billion for the overall server market, according to Gartner.

HP's blades are arriving later than planned. In 2004, HP said it expected Itanium blades to arrive in mid-2005.

HP is second in the blade market to IBM, whose BladeCenter product can run Big Blue's AIX version of Unix on blades with PowerPC processor. And through a deal disclosed last week, IBM will support Sun Microsystems' Solaris on its blades.

Dell sells only Xeon-based blades, and Sun, the fourth major server company, has said it plans to re-enter the blade server market in early 2006.

HP, which initiated the Itanium project and helped Intel bring the high-end chip family to market, remains the chip's biggest supporter. However, the new "Montecito" version of Itanium, originally due in late 2005 and sporting dual processing cores, has been delayed until mid-2006.

, general manager of HP's Business Critical Server group, said the blades are aimed chiefly at customers who use the company's ProLiant line of x86 servers. "It's really more for those customers who have grown up on ProLiant systems management and say now, 'Maybe we can use a Unix blade here,'" Marcello said.

The HP BL60p models are the same size as the company's dual-processor Opteron and Xeon blades: Eight fit in a 10.5-inch-tall rack-mounted chassis. The different server types can be mixed and matched in the same chassis.

HP said the BL60p outperforms IBM's JS20 blade server, which runs Linux and AIX, posting a score of 63,561 business operations per second on the SPECjbb2000 Java server benchmark to IBM's 39,631.


Correction: This story incorrectly described a server configuration used in a speed test. The configuration used two single-core Itanium processors.