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Hitachi blade servers get new flexibility

New BladeSymphony models can be linked into multiprocessor systems or subdivided with virtualization.

Hitachi announced on Tuesday a new generation of BladeSymphony blade servers, which can be linked into larger multiprocessor systems or subdivided through virtualization.

The new system, like its predecessor, is a rack-mounted chassis 17.5 inches tall that can accommodate eight dual-processor blades using either Itanium or Xeon chips from Intel. Unlike its predecessor, though, it's got significant new hardware features for those slotting in the Itanium blades, said Steve Campbell, vice president of marketing for Hitachi America's server group.

First is virtualization technology, called Virtage, that permits a single Itanium server to run multiple operating systems simultaneously. It does this, however, without employing virtualization software such as Xen. With Virtage, separate operating systems can share specified portions of computing resources, such as processor power, memory and input-output capacity, said Paul Figliozzi, chief systems architect at Hitachi.


Second is the ability to link up as many as four blades containing the new Itanium 2 9000 "Montecito" processor so that they make a single multiprocessor machine. The system accommodates up to 128GB of memory, but has no built-in hard drives and therefore requires either a separate storage blade or networked storage to boot up, Figliozzi said.

Hitachi plans to bring both the Virtage and symmetrical multiprocessor (SMP) abilities to blades with Xeon processors, Figliozzi added. But he declined to specify when the company plans to make that move. The Itanium-only nature of the features left at least one analyst cool, though.

"This product's most distinguishing features--its built-in virtualization and ability to aggregate blades into larger SMPs--are for Itanium only, today. While technically interesting, this will be a major hurdle to selling this in volume outside of Hitachi's home Japanese market," Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff said.

The BladeSymphony product will go on sale January 1 in the United States, a new beachhead for a company historically more focused on the Japanese market. But Hitachi plans "a really aggressive push into the North America marketplace," Campbell said.

The systems have a starting cost of $25,000, Hitachi said.

Hitachi doesn't sell x86 servers using Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron processor and has no plans to do so, Campbell added.