HP updates Itanium-based Integrity servers

Hewlett-Packard (HP) Thursday announced an upgrade and expansion of its Itanium-based Integrity server line to include new low-end models, a processor upgrade and improved virtualization support that it hopes will make the systems more attractive to Windows and Linux users.

This is first major update to HP's Integrity line in about 18 months. One of the changes unveiled today will enable Windows to run natively on the system in a virtual environment on a shared processor. Today, Windows needs underlying Unix operating system support for virtualization on Integrity. Windows can run natively on Integrity, but not in a virtualized environment.

HP expects to have this Windows virtualization capability ready later this year and plans to do the same for Linux and OpenVMS, two other operating systems that run on Integrity hardware, next year. This new capability will increase server utilization, simplify management and allow applications to be isolated, the company said.

HP is hoping that its virtualization efforts will broaden Integrity's appeal as a platform for supporting multiple operating systems. The virtualization feature will be available in the next release of Integrity Virtual Machine software, which is due later this year, HP said.

"This is an industry standard server that runs four operating environments," said Joe Nadler, HP vice president of Americas, Business Critical Servers and High-Performance Computing. Although Integrity has never been a exclusively Unix system, Nadler said that getting that message through has been difficult.

HP said it has about 9,000 applications that can run on Integrity, a number that continues to increase, and said large vendors are broadening their application support. For instance, Oracle in March said it would be supporting Itanium with its E-Business Suite.

But more Integrity application support may be needed. One Integrity user, Doug Burak, server network security manager at Bucks County Community College said he can't run all the Windows-based applications he would like on his Itanium systems. He pointed in particular to a backup and recovery application he uses on Windows systems running on x86 platforms.

Burak runs six Integrity servers -- mainly to support applications running on HPUX -- and has one that runs Windows 2003 Server for Itanium that supports file and print operations. While Burak spoke highly of Integrity's Windows performance, he may consider other x86 hardware platforms if he feels the Windows application support is lacking.

"Don't get me wrong, I love Itanium, but I'm also a realist," said Burak.

Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata said Integrity will continue to be seen as predominately a platform for supporting Unix systems "because Windows and Linux are in primarily scale-out environments. But there is some value of being able to mix and match within a single box as well."

HP also said it is upgrading its systems with the latest dual-core Intel Itanium 2 processors, previously named Montecito. The company expanded its Integrity line to seven server models, adding some lower-end models, the rx3600 and rx6600. HP's high-end Superdome system can support up to 64 Itanium physical processors.

Starting prices for HP Integrity systems range from US$4,884 for the rx2620 to US$209,389 for a Superdome.

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