Right from wrong

When HP pulled away from Intel's Itanium development few believed it was still committed to the chip for the long term. Colin Edwards discovers it was.

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By  Colin Edwards Published  October 31, 2006

Two years ago, HP, while not saying as much, pulled out of Intel’s Itanium processor development, with Intel taking over HP's Itanium design team. At the time many thought that HP's commitment to invest US$3 billion to drive its own Intel Itanium 2- based HP Integrity technology - such as new chipsets - was just spin.

The rest of the market was going with volume-based server processors and so was HP. Itanium, to all intents and purposes, was dead.

But the pundits were wrong once again. HP has now rolled out its latest HP Integrity server systems and they are all based on the fifth generation Itanium family codenamed Montecito - the first Itanium processor to be based on dual core technology.

It has been a bit late coming as Yasser Ragaei, business manager, Enterprise Servers, HP Middle East admits, but the new range is there providing an attractive carrot to any CIO looking to double the capacity of his HP-based data centre and move off legacy operating systems with a simple chip swap.

"This new technology can be used in older servers. Customers can just chip swap to the new version. They can have all the advantages of the new processor and the new dual core technology quickly and simply," he says.

"It means they can double the capacity of all our servers. Our fourway becomes an eight-way with the same components - that is, the same chassis, same memory, same disks, and everything. Just a chip change, though obviously it depends on which generation they have - but for one- or two-year old systems it's just a chip swap.

"Even our previous PA Risc generation systems are also inbox upgradeable by a chip swap to the Itanium dual core technology. This is the sort of investment protection that we have been working to give to our customers," adds Ragaei.

The new HP Integrity rx6600 and rx3600 servers are mainframecalibre high availability servers.

Available with HP-UX 11i, Microsoft Windows, Linux or OpenVMS operating environments, the servers include the HP zx2 chipset, a power-boosting, energy efficient development that emerged out of HP's decision to focus on its Integrity family. If users need to, they can scale up to 128 cpus and then cluster them to 32 clusters - a bank of computing power to do just about anything and everything.

It all sounds too good to be true, but Ragaei assures that it is so and in launching the new servers in Dubai says the new Integrity family also addresses the number one headache for data centre managers today - excessive heat.

In developing the new systems HP addressed power and cooling issues.

"One of challenges in the data centre today is cooling. Now you have a lot more computing power in the data centre and the floor space and room to accommodate this is becoming an issue so you need to take care of the cooling," he says.

The improved chipsets have been designed to help halve the processor’s power consumption.

"This means you can have double the processing power within the same processing facility. If you have a lot of power and heat in your data centre then it becomes an issue and you can't scale maybe because of this. By reducing the power consumption you can just double the amount of processing power in your data centre using the same environment as you had."

The question of optimal server utilisation has also been tackled with improved virtualisation solutions.

This not only ensures companies get the maximum return on their server investment, but also that server populations are kept in check which in itself obviates unnecessary power consumption and heating problems.

"The cost of the total solution for the customer is not just about investment protection in the hardware and giving them in-box upgrades - by the way we're just about the only vendor in the industry doing this at enterprise level systems - but also flexible capacity and virtualisation technologies to maximise the use of the servers - sharing resources for different applications and ensuring availability to reduce downtime.

"Our goal is to double the utilisation of computing resources. IDC says currently only 30% of computing resources are utilised across the enterprise because they don't use virtualisation. Our goal is to go from 30% to 60% without investing anything - just by deploying virtualisation. It's like you've doubled the number of processors by using them more intelligently. As this is based on dual core you're effectively quadrupling your processing power," says Ragaei.

Later this year, HP plans to add support for Windows to HP's Integrity Virtual Machines to allow multiple operating system instances to share a single processor. At that time, HP will also extend support for Integrity Essentials Capacity Advisor and Virtualisation Manager to Windows and Linux, in addition to current support for HP-UX 11i.

This extends the industry's first integrated software family for planning, managing and automating virtual servers.

"From a business point of view you need to respond to change very fast and you need your IT to be enabled to help you do that. We do this by simplifying our infrastructure - we're going Itanium instead of PA Risc. It's industry standard, it supports multi operating systems so you have the same hardware running Linux,Windows, Open VMS, Unix. The same hardware.

This is part of the virtualisation - a technology which enables the adaptive enterprise," he adds.

One concern around Itanium has been the availablility of commercial applications optimised to run on the 64-bit environment. Early Itanium rollouts were welcomed by number-crunching scientific labs, but not by businesses, until the big enterprise application vendors came on board.

According to Ragaei, there are more than 9,000 applications now working and certified on Integrity servers. These go across industries such as financial services, manufacturing, communications, media and entertainment, and the public sector. This, plus virtualisation and multi-operating system support will see even wider adoption by the commercial sector.

"The beauty of Integrity servers is that by having four operating systems to chose from you have a very wide portfolio of applications available to run on this server. If you can't find what you need on Unix, you'll probably find it on Windows, or Linux or OpenVMS," he says.

"Our goal is to go from 30% to 60% server utilisation without investing anything - just by deploying virtualisation."

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