Server Snapshots: HP Integrity Superdome

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Oct 19, 2007


The Integrity Superdome by HP (Palo Alto, Calif.) is at the very high end of the company's enterprise server line. As such, it's capable of supporting multiple operating environments and is particularly suited to handling workloads such as online transaction processing (OLTP), very large databases (VLDB) and other demanding applications. More recently, HP has outfitted the Superdome with extensive virtualization capabilities.

Looking for pure power? This enterprise-class server scales to 64 processors and 128 cores and can be clustered to provide many thousands of processors. HP's Superdome also now boasts extensive virtualization capabilities.

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Providing large memory capacity and I/O, the Integrity Superdome can scale to 64 processors and 128 cores, with 2 TB of memory and 192 I/O slots. It can also be clustered to provide many thousands of processors. In recent months, the Superdome has had a dual-core Itanium 2 processor makeover.

"These dual-core processors provide more than twice the performance as the previous-generation, single-core products, at a reduced power consumption rate," said Chuck Walters, product marketing manager for the HP Superdome business unit. "Additionally, HP introduced a new version of its flagship Unix operating environment called HP-UX 11i v3."

This new version of the operating system takes advantage of the HP Superdome hardware, said Walters, to provide a performance increase of up to 30 percent on a given set of hardware. The OS also delivers a new HP virtualization suite called Virtual Server Environment (VSE), which provides multi-OS virtualization and Integrity virtual machines (VM), as well as balanced performance across many application loads.

"This makes HP Superdome the best platform choice for scalability, performance and consolidation," said Walters. "It also supports the common, simplified management toolset that works across all HP product lines, including HP ProLiant servers and server blades, and StorageWorks storage and storage blades."

Competitive Bidding

Being a higher-end system, the Superdome doesn't play against 1-way, 2-way or 4-way boxes. Typically, it goes head-to-head with top-end System p products and System z mainframes from IBM (Armonk, N.Y.). Occasionally, it competes with midrange and high-end SPARC systems from Sun Microsystems (Santa Clara, Calif.)

According to Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata (Nashua, N.H.), the Superdome fares well on the tmpC benchmark against System p. Haff said a Superdome with 128 cores running at 1.6 GHz and running Oracle 10g scored higher than an IBM System p5-595 with 64 cores running DB2.

"HP Superdome's EPIC architecture outshines IBM's Power and mainframe architectures, providing a single, flexible platform encompassing the capabilities of these IBM environments," said Walters. "It provides a better return on investment [in areas] such as: higher scalability (128 cores vs. 64 cores), better value through balanced performance for good performance on many applications, a superior virtualization solution (Virtual Server Environment suite), and more variety in operation environment choice (supports HP-UX, Windows server, Linux and OpenVMS)."

As a result, he reports customers across a wide spectrum. Superdome is big, for example, among telcos for billing applications, stock markets and other large financial institutions for OLTP, retailers for POS tracking and business intelligence, manufacturing companies to control production, and media companies (like satellite television providers), to track their millions of customers. In addition, some academic establishments use it for scientific applications. It also boasts a significant customer base in data mining, customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, database hosting, human resources and high-performance computing.

To cover so much ground, HP provides plenty of mix and match options. The Web site offers six basic configurations, but there are many more permutations, depending on the specific need. By combining several Superdomes, large clusters can be constructed.

Take the case of the latest generation of HP Superdome servers powered by dual-core Itanium processors and the sx2000 chipset. It can be bought in 16-, 32-, and 64-socket models. Note that Superdome has no internal disks, so it always uses direct-attach storage (such as SCSI), or network-attached storage (such as Fibre Channel or high-speed Ethernet). Therefore, the figures given below do not include disks for boot or data, but they do include I/O cards (2 combo 2Gb FC/1000Base T and 2 combo dual port 1000BaseT/dual port U320 SCSI) to access disks.

"HP Superdome supports almost every type of mass storage offered by HP. Direct attached via SCSI, Fibre Channel attach, and network attached via 1000BaseT, 10Gb Ethernet, and Infiniband (also used for clustering)," said Walters.

He said the hardware net prices include the basics of cabinet, HP-UX Foundation operating environment, I/O chassis and minimum I/O, cell boards, processors, and memory at 4GB per core.

32 cores: Hardware and software net price, including available discounts, $694,546
64 cores: Hardware and software net price, $1,252,889
128 cores: Hardware and software net price, $2,490,216

"Superdome has a long track record of investment protection by allowing in-box upgrades to the next generation within the same platform since 2000," said Walters. "HP also offers Instant Capacity, Global Instant Capacity and Utility Pricing models for HP Superdome.

Pipeline

Not so long ago, naysayers doubted the sustainability of the Intel Itanium chip. Those arguments, however, have tended to fade away due to the performance levels of the current generation. From HP's perspective, such doubts have been put to rest. Walters noted that Superdome sales continue to climb as a solid indicator of the acceptance of the Itanium processor family.

Looking forward, the pipeline for HP Superdome includes a move from dual-core to quad-core processors.

"The future includes a transition to the quad-core Intel Itanium "Tukwila" chip once it is available," said Walters.

The Integrity Superdome Close Up

Name Superdome Integrity Superdome

Source: HP

Vendor HP
Platform Itanium 2
Dimensions 72" x 30" or 60" x 48"; 1,202 pounds
Processor Details 1.6 GHz Intel Itanium 2 dual-core processors
Hard Drives None, all storage is external
Operating Systems HP-UX, Windows Server 2003 (various editions), Red Hat Linux, SUSE Linux and OpenVMS
Configuration Options 32 cores, $694,546
64 cores, $1,252,889
128 cores, $2,490,216
All configuration have 4 GB RAM per core
Availability Now available
Warranty One year

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