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Server makers think smaller, faster

Size and speed are the buzzwords, as HP unveils a design that crams four processors into a 3.5-inch-high box. Meanwhile, Gateway and others turn to 3.06GHz chips.

Size and speed are the buzzwords for servers.

Hewlett-Packard on Monday unveiled a server that crams four processors into a box measuring 3.5 inches, or "2U," high, a design twist that lets information technology managers economize on office real estate. Meanwhile, other manufacturers came out with two-processor servers containing Intel's speedy new 3.06GHz Xeon chip.

When it comes to servers, size matters. Servers are heavy-duty computers built to process or store data on computer networks. By reducing the size of the server chassis or increasing the number of chips that fit into a given box, computer makers can cut the costs associated with managing their products. Dense servers take up less space, thereby reducing overhead, and IT managers don't have to visit different locations. Dense servers also sometimes consume less power.

The HP ProLiant DL560 server comes with up to four Intel Xeon processors and up to 12GB of memory. Prices start at $7,099. Although some smaller manufacturers have come out with four-processor servers measuring 2U high, HP maintains that it is the first large manufacturer to offer one.

Gateway and others, meanwhile, came out with one- and two-processor servers containing the 3.06GHz Xeon processor. The chip is matched with a 533MHz system bus, an upgrade to the Xeon line that Intel came out with last year. The Gateway 960 and 980 servers start at $2,199 and $3,099, respectively. Prices vary depending on the configuration.

Dell Computer and HP began selling servers containing the chip in February.

The 3.06GHz Xeon and a sister 3GHz chip come with 512KB of level-three cache, a pool of memory on the chip allowing rapid data access. Later in the year, Intel will increase the cache size to 1MB as well as release a number of Xeons for servers that can handle four or more processors. The 3GHz Xeon uses a 400MHz bus.

Intel currently dominates the market for Windows-compatible servers. Rival Advanced Micro Devices, however, will increase the competition when it releases its Opteron chip April 22.