SERVER VENDOR HP has released four new Xeon E7 servers that increasingly blur the lines between the capabilities of x86 kit and big-tin custom RISC or Itanium boxes.
Following Intel's launch of the Xeon E7 processors, a number of major manufacturers including Dell and HP revealed their plans to incorporate Intel's latest and greatest server chip. While Dell showed off Poweredge servers with up to 40 cores and 2TB of memory, HP went whole hog and announced blade servers and an 8-socket, 80-core behemoth that supports up to 4TB of RAM.
HP, like Dell before it, touted the performance improvements of its new Proliant G7 servers, which are all pretty standard fare. However what did pique our interest was that while Intel claimed firms could shave 1W of power for every 32GB DIMM, HP went further, claiming its customers can look forward to saving 155W for every 256GB used, through the use of 1.35V DIMMs. With servers able to run 4TB of RAM that's a savings of almost 2,500W, hardly something to be scoffed at.
Kit from both Dell and HP looks mighty impressive on paper. But unlike Dell, HP sells its own line of RISC servers and is a staunch supporter of Intel's Itanium chip with its Integrity and Superdome lines, and it seems that the gap between the two is diminishing.
Talking to The INQUIRER, Michael McNerney, director server planning and marketing business critical systems at HP said that x86 "continued to add performance and reliability" and that "HP was fully leveraging that for its customers". He went onto to say that HP's Integrity line of Itanium servers provided mission critical performance that was built up over time through both hardware and software.
However McNerney did admit that server workloads were "migrating to x86 over time" and that HP was bringing features from its Integrity Itanium line into its x86 Proliant range, such as double device data correction. McNerney did say that there is still some advantages to be had from more traditional high-end server hardware that runs Unix such as the ability for vendors such as HP to "integrate resilience within the firmware and the operating system".
Given the level of investment required by companies to buy high-end RISC or Itanium kit, McNerney was certainly right when he said that HP's Itanium lines will "remain stable for the foreseeable future".
That might be so but when HP is selling an 8-socket, 80-core, 4TB X86 machine that doesn't come with the baggage of Itanium, one has to wonder why Intel continues to bother with Itanium. µ