HP speeds up Superdome

Hewlett-Packard revved up the high-end of its server line Monday with faster processors in its large Superdome server.

HP is swapping the server's current 750MHz PA-RISC (precision architecture reduced instruction set computing) 8700 processors with new 875MHz PA-RISC 8700+ processors, the company said in a statement. The Superdome server can accommodate up to 64 processors and runs HP's HP-UX flavor of the Unix operating system. HP will push the PA-RISC 8700+ chips farther down its Unix server line "in the near future," according to a spokeswoman.

The faster chips should help HP keep up with competition from the likes of Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM Corp. in the lucrative Unix server market. Both Sun and IBM have revamped their high-end systems that compete with Superdome in recent months, but HP claims the new chips stack up well against rival systems, particularly when it comes to churning through Java-based applications. Java is a popular technology used in the types of business applications run on Superdome.

Over the next few years, HP hopes to move away from the PA-RISC chips and adopt Intel Corp.'s Itanium chip across most of its server line. HP codeveloped Itanium with Intel, and the company believes Intel's widespread distribution channel will help make large, powerful servers less expensive for businesses. Sun and IBM, however, have said they plan to continue making their own chips for Unix servers.

A 16 processor Superdome with 64G bytes of memory starts at US$400,000. A top-of-the-line 64 processor system with 256G bytes of memory starts at $1 million. Superdome servers do not have internal hard disks; they use external storage instead.

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