HP plans Linux virtualization, use of Open VMS for Integrity line

Although Intel’s Itanium processors have not made the big bang the chipmaker hoped when it announced the CPU with Hewlett-Packard five years ago, the two companies Thursday showed that they continue to invest in the technology.

HP announced the latest in its Integrity line for midrange computing using single core Itanium 2 processors, which will be upgraded to dual core Itaniums before the end of the year. Combined with a new zx2 chipset, the company said it will give partners the ability to sell a flexible package that can run multiple operating systems simultaneously or offer utility pricing.

The new two-way rx3600 — which starts at $11,000 in a base single CPU configuration — and the four-way rx6600 will run multiple sessions of HP’s version of Unix, HP-UX11i, like all Itanium servers. However, the new models have the ability to virtualize Windows Server as well. By the end of the year they will also have the ability to run Linux, and early next year the capability to run OpenVMS. 

Steve Shaw, HP Canada’s business development manager for business critical systems, said that ability could be important to some partners.

“A significant amount of our OpenVMS business is done through the channel,” he said. When the new servers will be able to run that operating system partners will be able to offer HP’s temporary capacity billing, which charges customers for use of CPUs temporarily turned on for short periods of intensive computing, or pay-per-use monthly metering. These billing capabilities already exist for HP-UX and WinServer. 

“This is something a lot of customers have been waiting for,” said Shaw. “This will be really important for partners involved in OpenVMS.”

It isn’t clear how many there are, although some likely use Itaniums for their managed service provider business rather than resell the servers. Although Shaw said sales of Itanium servers have been “improving quite drastically” in the last two years, he couldn’t provide figures for Canada.

Darin Stahl, research lead for data centre servers and storage for Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont., didn’t have figures either, but said he understands that Itanium sales in Asia are significantly better than in North America.

“Normally Itanium information (on a new product) would be boring,” he said in an interview. However, he was struck by the improved cost per watt of the new processors over previous Itanium CPUs, which he said will be appealing in data centres.

In theory, Shaw said, an rx6600 system will be able to a total of 160 virtual machines, 20 per processor core.

The rx3600 will have a capacity of 96Gb of memory, while the rx6600 can have a maximum 192Gb of RAM. That’s three times the capacity of what Shaw said are competing models from IBM, the p530 and p550 series servers.

“The market for these guys (the new HP models) is certainly an SMB kind of customer,” said Shaw. “Even large enterprises looking to consolidate smaller 1-and-2U-sized boxes into something more powerful. They’re going to make great database servers in the Windows SQL environment, or a Linux cluster or an Oracle rack.”

Over 9,000 applications have been certified to run on Itanium, said Shaw.

Mike Cardy, director of infrastructure services for Onx Enterprise Solutions, a Toronto-based HP enterprise partner, said the new models couldfind favour among the company’s Integrity customers, which include financial institutions.

“They’re appealing because you’re getting the enterprise performance in an entry to mid-range server,” he said. “You can almost consolidate one ofthese systems, which lowers their (customers’) initial investment.”

He estimated Onx sells between $5 million and $10 million in Integrity servers a year.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer. Former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, Howard has written for several of ITWC's sister publications, including ITBusiness.ca. Before arriving at ITWC he served as a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times.

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