HP brings new chips to servers

The computer maker announces new servers that use Intel's Itanium processor and HP's own PA-8800, the second-to-last chip in the company's Precision Architecture lineage.

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Hewlett-Packard announced on Monday new servers that use Intel's Itanium processor and HP's own PA-8800, the second-to-last chip in the company's Precision Architecture lineage.

As reported, the announcement includes new low-end Itanium-based models and high-end PA-8800-based models. Almost all of the PA-8800 based systems are available now, and the top-end 128-processor Superdome will ship in March, HP said.

Although HP is moving its high-end line to Itanium, most customers of its Unix servers still use PA-RISC based models. The new PA-8800 chip, a "dual-core" model that packs two PA-8700 chips onto a single slice of silicon, boosts performance as much as 150 percent compared with the PA-8700, HP said.

The Itanium systems include the rx2600, updated with new lower-priced processors and shipping now, and the rx1600, a slim 1.75-inch-thick model expected to ship in March.

The models are arriving during a fiercely competitive time in the server market, just now returning to growth after years of punishing discounts. At the same time HP's new servers are emerging, Sun Microsystems also is launching new UltraSparc IV-based servers Tuesday, while IBM is slated to release its new Power5-based "Squadron" systems later in the year.

HP is gradually phasing out the PA chips at the heart of its Unix server line in favor of Itanium. In addition, HP also is phasing out the Alpha chips used in the AlphaServer line and the MIPS chips at the heart of its NonStop line, both acquired as a result of the 2002 merger with Compaq Computer.

At the same time it's reducing this complexity, it's also expanding its ProLiant line, powered by Intel's 32-bit Xeon processors today and, according to sources, Advanced Micro Devices' 64-bit Opteron processor in the future. While HP calls the new chips a natural extension to the 32-bit x86 lineage, industry analysts see the chips as blurring the previously clear distinction between the x86 chips and the 64-bit Itanium.

Intel is working on its own 64-bit x86 extensions, formerly called Yamhill but now code-named Clackamas Technology, or CT, according to sources.

Because the PA-8800 is a dual-core chip, it permits two processors to be fit into a single chip socket; HP counts each PA-8800 as two processors. That terminology agrees with IBM's approach with its existing dual-core Power4 and forthcoming Power5 processors. Sun, however, calls its dual-core UltraSparc IV a single processor, preferring to emphasize that its chip can simultaneously execute two instruction sequences, called threads.

The 128-processor Superdome--using as many as 64 PA-8800 chips--will be available for a starting price of $309,000 in March, HP said. Available today are five new PA-8800-based Unix servers:

• The 32-processor rp8420 has a starting cost of $93,000 with PA-8800 processors and 2GB of memory.

• The 16-processor rp7420 has a starting cost of $40,000 with two PA-8800 processors and 2GB of memory.

• The 8-processor rp4440 has a starting cost of $21,000 with twoPA-8800 processors and 1GB of memory.

• The 4-processor rp3440 has a starting cost of $7,000 with two PA-8800 processors and 1GB of memory.

• The 2-processor rp3410 has a starting cost of $4,000 with two PA-8800 processors and 1GB of memory.

In other news...
Also on Monday, HP announced new pricing options for its midrange storage line. The company introduced a pay-per-use financing option that lets customers pay for storage capacity as they need it.

Hewlett-Packard also said Monday that it will launch its biggest ad campaign to date targeted at large businesses.

With the new ads, which kick off next month, HP is trying to convince companies both that change is a good thing and that HP is the right computer maker to help businesses navigate that change. The television, online and outdoor ads feature case studies of how HP has helped various large customers, including Kimberly-Clark, the U.S. Postal Service and the Screen Actors Guild.

The campaign is the latest twist to the company's ongoing "+HP" effort, which kicked off in November 2002.

"We asked hundreds of CIOs and IT executives what keeps them awake at night. The universal response was 'change,'" said a statement from Allison Johnson, senior vice president at HP. "With this campaign, we hope to help companies see the benefits of embracing change."

HP said it will start the campaign in the United States next month, expanding to 17 other countries in April.

CNET News.com's Ina Fried contributed to this report.