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By | Timothy Prickett Morgan 2nd June 2009 19:24

HP leads pack with Istanbul iron

Double dense Nehalems too

Server maker Hewlett-Packard advanced to the pole position in the x64 server race this morning as it launched a slew of new iron, some using Advanced Micro Devices' new six-core "Istanbul" Opterons 2400 and 8400 series processors announced yesterday and others rounding out the new ProLiant and BladeSystem machines that came out concurrent with the four-core "Nehalem EP" Xeon processors at the end of March.

In March, HP rolled out 11 new ProLiant Generation 6 servers sporting the Nehalem EPs, and today, the company is putting another three Nehalem boxes into the field as well as seven machines that support the Istanbuls.

Rather than just plunk the Istanbuls into the existing ProLiant G5 servers, whose chipsets do support the processors, HP has taken the technologies it rolled into the two-socket Nehalem EP machines in the G6 series and created a whole new Opteron lineup. These G6 technologies include dynamic power capping and other ThermalLogic tech that was once only in its BladeSystem blade servers.

Lots of systems sensors to measure performance, heat, and power consumption of server components; high efficiency and common power supplies; 6 GB/sec SAS disk controllers; and the new ProLiant Onboard Administrator, which is the merging of the Integrated Lights Out (iLO) service processor inside blade chassis and rack and tower servers and the Web console that used to be only on blades.

But don't get the wrong idea. The new Opteron-based servers will technically support both quad-core "Shanghai" Opterons, which had their prices cut dramatically on May 25 ahead of the Istanbul launch, as well as the Istanbul chips. And HP will continue to sell ProLiant G5 machines configured with Shanghai processors if that is what customers want.

AMD wants the Opteron processor to span a large range of performance and price points and move across two-socket, four-socket, and larger servers as it tries to take on Intel. With its Nehalem EP processors restricted to uniprocessor and two-socket boxes, AMD will probably have a significant advantage on four-socket and eight-socket servers. Intel's "Dunnington" Xeon 7400s have the advantage beyond this, with a few vendors - IBM, NEC, and Unisys being the key ones - building Xeon boxes that span up to 16 sockets.

Lineup lowdown

The new HP ProLiant G6 servers sporting Istanbul Opterons include four rack and three blades servers:

  • ProLiant DL165: This is the entry, cheapo model designed to appeal to enterprises for infrastructure workloads or supercomputer cluster buyers who basically just want CPU oomph and some networking. The DL165 G6 is a two-socket 1U rack server that can support the three Opteron 2400 variants running at 2.2 GHz, 2.4 GHz, or 2.6 GHz. The box supports up to 64 GB of DDR2 main memory (that's eight memory slots, and using very pricey 8 GB DIMMs), and it has two PCI-Express 2.0 slots, room for four 3.5-inch SAS or SATA disks, and two Gigabit Ethernet ports. A base machine with a single 2.2 GHz Opteron 2427 processor, 4 GB of memory, and no disks costs $1,679.
  • ProLiant DL385: This is the 2U workhorse rack server, which has two processor sockets that can support the three Opteron 2400 variants as well. The new DL385 supports up to 128 GB of DDR2 main memory using 8 GB DIMMs and has room for sixteen 2.5-inch SAS or SATA drives. (As with the Xeon-based G6 machines, customers can use 3.5-inch SAS or SATA drives in some models, if that floats their boat). The DL385 has four Gigabit Ethernet ports and three PCI-Express 2.0 slots. The entry machine with one 2.2 GHz Opteron 2427 processor, 4 GB of memory, and no disks costs $2,124.
  • ProLiant DL585: This is a four-socket box that will likely see action as a virtualization and database platform. The DL585 G6 comes in a 4U rack chassis and supports the 2.4 GHz Opteron 2431 or 2.6 GHz Opteron 8435 processors and up to 128 GB of main memory and up to eight 2.5-inch SAS or SATA drives for local storage. The box has seven PCI-Express 2.0 and two PCI-X legacy peripheral slots, and two Gigabit Ethernet NICs on the motherboard. In a base configuration with one 2.4 GHz Opteron 8431 in the box, 16 GB of memory, and no disks, HP is charging $17,029 for the machine.
  • ProLiant DL785: This is a machine that scales up to eight processor sockets in a single system image, but it won't be available until the third quarter. So pricing is not available. The DL785 comes in a 7U chassis and will support the current top-end Istanbul Opteron 8431 running at 2.4 GHz (rated at 75 watts) as well as the forthcoming 2.1 GHz Opteron 8425 EE (rated at 55 watts) and 2.8 GHz Opteron 8439 SE (rated at 105 watts). The Opteron SE, EE, and HE parts are not coming out until the third quarter. The DL785 has eleven PCI-Express 2.0 slots and dual Gigabit Ethernet NICs standard and maxes out at 512 GB of main memory using 8 GB DDR2 DIMMs.
  • ProLiant BL465: This is a half-height, single-wide blade server for BP's BladeSystem c3000 (Shorty) or c7000 chassis. It is a two-socket machine that supports up to 64 GB of main memory and has room for two 2.5-inch SAS or SATA disks as well as two Gigabit Ethernet NICs on the card. (Like other blades, mezzanine cards are used to link out to shared storage). With one 2.2 GHz Opteron 2427, 4 GB of memory, and no disks, the entry BL465c costs $2,229.
  • ProLiant BL495c: This is a two-socket blade that supports only the 2.2 GHz Opteron 2427 and 2.6 GHz Opteron 2435 Istanbuls and that offers twice as much main memory as the BL465c, at a maximum of 128 GB. It also comes with two embedded two-port 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports. With one 2.2 GHz Opteron 2427, 4 GB of memory, and no disks, the entry BL465c costs $2,359.
  • ProLiant BL685c: This is an existing four-socket ProLiant G6 blade that is being sold with both Shanghai and Istanbul chips. The BL685c is a full-height, single-wide blade that has 32 DDR2 main memory slots, for a maximum of 256 GB of main memory. The blade has two 2.5-inch drive bays, two embedded two-port 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports, and three PCI-Express mezzanine slots. With two 2.4 GHz Opteron 8431 six-core chips, 4 GB of memory, and no disks, this blade costs $10,978.

Double Nehalem Deckers

If you aren't big on the Istanbul Opterons, then perhaps the most interesting box that HP has put into the field - well, three different boxes, really - is the DL1000 series. Taking a page out of the Super Micro playbook, HP's Industry Standard Server division is cramming four Nehalem EP server nodes - side-by-side and double-deckered - into a single 2U server chassis.

John Gromala, director of product marketing for HP's ProLiant server business, says that the DL1000 series will be available worldwide as a standard product. Unlike the custom boxes made by Dell's Data Center Services (DCS) unit (see and here for examples) or IBM's iDataPlex machines (see here for the latest ones). The DL170h G6 server node that slides into the DL1000 chassis. It is a two-socket Xeon 5500 board that supports up to 128 GB of main memory and from one to three PCI-Express slots (depending on the configuration).

If you want lots of peripherals and disks, you just put one DL170h node in the box. Or, if you are willing to sacrifice some but not all I/O and disk, you can put two DL170h nodes side by side. (That's the DL2x170h configuration). And for maximum density, but limited I/O and peripherals, you get the DL4x170h, which stacks four nodes inside the 2U chassis, known as the h1000. The h1000 chassis has room for eight 3.5-inch or sixteen 2.5-inch disk drives that are shared by the boards inside the box (the number is dependent on the number of motherboards inside the chassis). Obviously, the power supplies shared by all the gear in the box has to be properly sized for the number of nodes and disks in the h1000 chassis.

HP is very keen on chasing IBM and Dell in trying to land hyperscale data centers deals, where customers deploy tens to hundreds of thousands of servers. With 672 Nehalem cores and 10 TB of memory per rack, the DL1000 is going to get some tire kicking and probably win some deals too.

With two server nodes, the base DL1000 costs $2,819, and with four server nodes, it costs $4,909.

Given the launch of the Istanbuls this week, you might expect that the DL1000 would have Opteron variants, but Gromala is mum about HP's plans to use Opterons in the product.

Finally, the last new ProLiant today is a tower box, the ML330 G6, which HP says is the first modular tower server. Rather than just create a two-socket tower box, HP broke a Xeon 5500 server in half, putting one socket and its memory on the motherboard and another socket and its memory on a daughter card that plugs into the Intel "Tylersburg" 5520 chipset and creates a normal SMP cluster. If customers know they will never want a second processor, they can buy the ML330 G6 with the Xeon 3500. And if they want to be careful about expansion, they can buy Xeon 5500s, which each have nine memory slots per socket for a maximum of 144 GB of main memory using 8 GB DIMMs.

The server has four PCI-Express 2.0 slots (with an optional two PCI-X slots), plus room for eight 3.5-inch disks and two Gigabit Ethernet ports. In a base configuration with one 2 GHz Xeon E5504 and 2 GB of memory on the main motherboard, plus a 250 GB SATA drive, the ML330 G6 costs $1,315. It costs $649 to add the second E5504 processor card and 2 GB of memory for it. HP is supporting the entry dual-core Xeon 5502 chips all the way up to the 2.4 GHz E5540 processors in the ML330 G6. ®

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