New HP ProLiant Pits AMD Against Intel

By Michael Singer (Send Email)
Posted Apr 20, 2004


HP launched the new 4-way ProLiant DL585 server Monday, the first server system based on AMD's Opteron processor since the vendor agreed to include AMD's chips on its systems. HP Monday launched the first of its promised Opteron-powered servers, a 4-way ProLiant DL585 server. Will this spell trouble for its relationship with Intel?

HP also announced its new LC 3000 series based on the ProLiant DL145 server. The company said its latest high performance computing (HPC) and clustering package is designed as an easy, pre-formatted system.

The company is also working on an Opteron-based blade server for release later this year, as it seeks to mirror its existing Intel Xeon-based systems with its corresponding AMD Opteron-based ones.

And therein lies a conundrum for HP, a staunch supporter of the biggest pillars of Intel chips (Pentium, Xeon, Itanium). Until recently, the company never had the problem of showing a second set of servers that, according to recent benchmark studies, are out-performing its original configurations.

"Some customers report a 40 percent improvement over similar systems running Xeon -- but that would have to be the poster child application that was tweaked for the chip such as online gaming customers and HPC customers," Steve Cumings, HP group manager for Opteron systems, told internetnews.com.

While Cumings said the vast majority of its volume comes from Xeon-based systems, AMD is moving fast -- even when benchmarked for enterprise applications from companies like SAP and Microsoft. HP said its ProLiant DL585 recently earned the top Microsoft Windows Exchange Server 2003 Performance and Scalability Benchmark result for four-processor servers, using the new MMB3 benchmark. The server supported 7,800 MMB3 (or users), which is more than an 8 percent increase in users over the previously published record. The server also gave a 9 percent boost to SAP software in similar benchmark testing.

"What we are seeing is that it is better than any other 4-way x86 out there," Cumings said. "This is not to say that Opteron will shadow all of our Xeon servers. We will introduce a sister version of the ProLiant where it makes sense to bring out specific attributes of both processors."

Side by side, the Opteron-powered ProLiant DL585 is also less expensive, with its two-processor top-bin selling for $11,999. That system would include the Opteron 848 series running at 2.2 GHz with 2GB base memory, and no drives.

Compare that to the Xeon MP-based ProLiant DL580. That two-processor top-bin sku tops out at 3 GHz with a 4 MB cache, and 2 GB of base memory, also with no drives but retailing for $15,798.

Intel's opportunity to match Opteron in the 64-bit processing space is still a few months away, as the No. 1 chipmaker is expected to debut its "Nocona" Xeon processors later this year. AMD, meanwhile, is celebrating the first anniversary of Opteron's release later this week.

HP has its own fish to fry. IDC's February stats show HP as the leader in the x86 space having shipped 32.6 percent of total worldwide. But the company is experiencing increased pressure from rivals like IBM and Sun, which are also offering pre-configured HPC and Linux systems running on Opteron.

To counter its rivals, HP said its LC 3000 series comes in 50, 150, 1,000 server nodes for server farms, colleges, brokerage houses, and other financial businesses.

The LC 3000 series, also an Opteron-based system, follows two Xeon-based ones offered by HP: the LC 1000 Series, based on the HP ProLiant DL140, and the LC 2000 Series, based on HP ProLiant DL360 servers.

"Applications that are compute intensive and run well on clusters of IA-32-based systems, such as many CFD applications, will also see advantages with Opteron clusters," the company said in a statement.

The LC Series is made up of certified partner and application solution stacks as well as freeware and Open Source offerings. HP supports a range of HPC solutions provided by independent software vendors, including Altair Engineering, Axceleron, Cyclades, Engineered Intelligence, Meiosys, Platform Computing, Red Hat, Scali, Sistina, and United Devices.

This article was originally published on internetnews.com.

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