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Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Hewlett-Packard plans to unveil on Monday its first blade servers using Advanced Micro Devices’ Opteron processor, as well as a more conventional server and a workstation that use the new chip.
HP last year let Opteron into its ProLiant server family, which until then only used Intel chips. AMD in 2003 pioneered the extension of such x86 chips with 64-bit memory, which permits easy access to more than 4GB of memory. But Intel followed suit in 2004 with its “Nocona” version of the Xeon processor.
The ProLiant expansion was significant in light of HP’s commitment to the higher-end Itanium processor line, a rival 64-bit family from Intel that HP helped develop. However, the vast majority of x86 software, including Microsoft Windows until later this year, is still 32-bit.
On the same day and also at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in Boston, Intel and AMD are expected to unveil new higher-end chips for dual-processor servers, said sources familiar with the companies’ plans. The Opteron 252 will run at 2.6GHz and boost the speed of the HyperTransport communications links from 800MHz to 1GHz, while Intel will release the new “Irwindale” version of Intel’s Xeon, which doubles the amount of high-speed cache memory to 2MB compared with existing “Nocona” Xeon models, the sources said.
Dell confirmed it planned to launch new Irwindale servers Monday, and IBM and HP are expected to announce their own with the chip the same day. AMD, Intel, HP and IBM declined to comment for this story.
The faster HyperTransport link is expected across all AMD Opteron processors as the company moves the chip family to a new manufacturing process with 90-nanometer (billionths of a meter) features, a source familiar with the plans said. Also arriving will be the SSE3 instructions Intel added to its chips last year to speed multimedia operations such as decoding video.
Dell doesn’t sell Opteron servers, though the company is warming to the idea. IBM sells an Opteron model only for high-performance technical computing customers. The most eager partner is Sun Microsystems, which has passed HP as AMD’s top Opteron customer and which plans an eight-processor server and other new systems in coming months.
Intel and AMD are planning new dual-core processors that combine two processing engines on the same slice of silicon. AMD’s are scheduled to arrive first, midway through this year, while Intel’s won’t reach high-volume production until 2006.
However, some customers, computer makers and software companies won’t have to wait until 2006 for dual-core Xeons. Intel is expected to announce Monday that it will send thousands of systems with the new chips to those business partners and premium customers in the second half of 2005.
HP is expected to offer two dual-Opteron blades, the BL25p with the 2.6GHz Opteron 252 and the BL35p with the 2.4GHz Opteron 250. The BL25p is larger than the BL35p, but offers more storage capacity.
The BL25p is expected to cost $3,499 with one processor and 1GB of memory and $5,209 with two processors and 2GB memory. The corresponding BL35p prices are $2,899 and $4,209.
According to an HP Web site, the workstation can accommodate dual Opteron processors and up to 16GB of memory. It uses dual nVidia graphics cards employing the graphics chipmaker’s Scalable Link Interface, or SLI, technology, which connects the two into a single, more powerful graphics subsystem.