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HP goes to 11 with ProLiant launch

Strength in numbers

The details

The ProLiant ML150 G6 is a tower server that supports the standard 80-watt quad-core Nehalem parts running at 2 GHz to 2.53 GHz. HP is also supporting that E5502 dual-core part running at 1.86 GHz, presumably as the cheapest processor option for price-sensitive small and medium businesses that buy tower servers. This box supports up to 48 GB of main memory, and it has room for either eight 2.5-inch drives (which are hot pluggable) or four 3.5-inch drives (which are not). This tower server can be tipped on its side and mounted in racks, where it occupies 5U of rack space.

The ML350 G6 is a tower box that can also be mounted in a rack (taking up 5U of space), and it is being pitched as the best price/performance tower box in the two-socket lineup. This machine supports each and every Nehalem processor SKU - all eleven of them - and offers up to 144 GB of memory (from 18 DIMM slots) and up to sixteen 2.5-inch drives or up to eight 3.5-inch drives.

The ML370 G6 tower server has a redesigned chassis (which fits in a 4U space if mounted in a rack). It supports all of the Nehalems and up to 144 GB of memory, just like the ML350 G6, but it can have up to two dozen 2.5-inch disks or up to fourteen 3.5-inch disks. That's a neat trick. HP has cut the form factor down by 20 per cent, but increased the disk capacity by 50 per cent for 2.5-inch drives and by 75 per cent for 3.5-inch disks. HP says that this server has been optimized specifically to support virtualization-driven server consolidation or for remote sites or departmental deployment.

Now, on to rack-mounted machines. The DL370 G6 is just the ML370 G6 just described above tipped on its side with its little feet cut off and an open face plate.

At the bottom of the rack lineup, the ProLiant DL160 G6 is a 1U rack server that supports the 60-watt L5520 Nehalem chip running at 2.26 GHz. The 80-watt Nehalems running at 2 GHz (E5504), 2.26 GHz (E5520), and 2.53 GHz (E5540). And the extreme versions rated at 95 watts running at 2.67 GHz (X5550) or 2.93 GHz (X5570). (The dual-core E5502 Nehalem running at 1.86 GHz is not supported by HP in this machine).

All of these chips have 8 MB of L3 cache except the E5504, which has 4 MB. The machine supports up to 144 GB of DDR3 memory (18 slots) and supports four 3.5-inch or eight 2.5-inch drives, for a maximum of 4 TB of using 1 TB (7,200 RPM) disks. HP is pitching this box as ideal for Web serving or as nodes in supercomputer clusters, presumably because it is cheap.

The ProLiant DL180 G6 is a 2U server that only supports the 60-watt L5520 and the 80-watt E5504, E5520, and E5540 processors. It has up to 96 GB of main memory and room for up to 14 3.5-inch drives or 25 2.5-inch drives. Using hot-plug 2.5-inch drives in 72 GB capacity - the kind you would expect for a peppy server pushing a lot of I/O - this machine tops out at 1.8 TB. If you use slower SATA or SAS drives, you can drive capacity as high as 7.5 TB using SAS drives or 14 TB using SATA drives.

The DL360 G6 is a beefier server, geared for what HP describes as "reliable compute power, iLO advanced remote management and fault tolerance for space-constrained environments." It looks like a skinny two-socket box using the same motherboard as the ML350 G6, ML370 G6, and DL370 servers (to my eye), supporting all the Nehalems and up to 144 GB of main memory.

However, the DL360 G6 only supports 2.5-inch disks in its 1U chassis, and only up to eight of them. It does not offer support for 3.5-inch drives - something that will happen to all servers over the next year or so as 15K SAS drives in 2.5-inch form factors come down in price.

The ProLiant DL380 G6 is probably going to be the workhorse machine this year, as the DL380s have been since the dot-com boom. This 2U rack-mounted machine not only supports the fully Nehalem lineup, but is the machine that supports the Nehalems with the so-called Turbo Mode. With Turbo Mode, chip cores on the quad-core chip can be quiesced, thereby allowing remaining cores to run at a higher clock speed, thereby boosting the performance of the jobs running on the cores (at least those that are sensitive to clock speeds).

The quad-core Nehalem EP chips running at 2.26 GHz or higher support this Turbo Mode in the DL380 G6. The DL360 supports up to 144 GB of main memory and up to eight 2.5-inch drives (sixteen with an optional SAS drive cage) or up to six 3.5-inch drives. (Both SAS and SATA drives are supported in both disk sizes in a wide variety of capacities and speeds).

The blade servers in the ProLiant family that are sporting the Nehalem chips include the ProLiant BL280c, the BL460c, and the BL490c. As the names suggest, they plug into the SMB-style "Shorty" c3000 chassis or the larger c7000 chassis.

The feeds and speeds of the BL280c, presumably the entry Nehalem EP blade server, have not been announced today, and won't be available for a few weeks.

The BL460c is HP's workhorse blade server, which it says accounts for 25 per cent of blade server shipments worldwide. (It is akin to the DL380 rack machine in terms of its hold on the market.) The is a half-height blade that supports the full breadth of Nehalem EP chips with 60, 80, or 95 watt thermals, including the quad-core models and the 1.86 GHz dual-core model. The standard BL460c comes with 6 GB of memory, expandable to 96 GB of memory in its dozen memory slots. The blade has two hot-plus bays for 2.5-inch SATA or SAS disks, an integrated RAID 1 controller, and two PCI-Express x8 slots on mezzanine cards. In terms of networking, the BL460c comes with a dual-port 10 Gigabit Ethernet link using HP's Flex-10 adapters and Virtual Interconnect virtual I/O.

The BL490c is the HP blade with a large memory footprint. However, the BL490c will still have less than half the memory of a Cisco Systems "California" blade server, if the rumored 384 GB support for that Cisco product turns out to be correct for a two-socket blade. Anyway, the BL490c has eighteen DDR3 memory slots, which is a lot to pack onto a half-height blade server. This blade, which was designed with server virtualization in mind, only supports the 2.93 GHz X5570 (95 watts), 2.53 GHz E5540 (80 watts), and 2 GHz E5504 (80 watts) processors. The blade has room for SSDs, which come in 32 GB and 64 GB capacities. No hard disks are offered on this blade. But customers who want disks can reach out to a blade storage enclosure using the integrated SAS controller. There's just too much heat in disks to mix in that many DDR3 memory slots on a blade server. The BL490c comes with the same dual-port 10 Gigabit Flex-10 adapter used on the BL460c. The HP spec sheets say the BL490c has two expansion slots, but doesn't say what kind.

The rack servers all support various versions of Windows and Linux as well as Solaris 10, while the tower servers only support Windows and Linux. Sun doesn't have a Solaris tower server business, and apparently, HP doesn't expect one, either. The blade servers are certified to run Windows, Linux, or Solaris 10, just like the racks.

HP says that the ProLiant G6 machines range in price from $999 to $2,105 in base configurations. More precise - and useful - pricing information was not available at press time. All of the new G6 machines using Nehalems are available now, excepting the DL360 and DL370 racks and the BL280c blades, which are expected to be available "in the coming weeks." ®

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