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Analysts await HP Opteron products

Speculation is mounting that Hewlett-Packard will launch products based on Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron processor.

Both HP and AMD would not comment on the rumours, although analysts said an Opteron-based product range would put HP ahead in the market while its rivals, including Dell, waited for Intel to release a similar chip

IBM and Sun Microsystems revealed their product plans for Opteron last year.

Intel and AMD added 64-bit extensions to the x86 instruction set to develop Nocona and Opteron respectively. The chips can run both types of applications on the same server with a 64-bit operating system.

Nocona and Opteron are expected to be software compatible, meaning they will run the same operating systems and applications. But the chips are expected to have slight performance differences based on their respective architectures that will allow server companies to differentiate products based on the two chips, analysts said.

Opteron uses the Hypertransport interconnect standard and has an integrated memory controller, said Charles King, research director at The Sageza Group. Opteron's performance with those two features has delighted users, especially in the high-performance computing market.

Intel is expected to put out a competitive product with its use of the PCI Express interconnect standard and a faster front-side bus than older Xeons, King said. In many cases, HP and IBM could let customers try out both products and discover which one is best suited for their environment, rather than losing sales to another vendor with only one of the chips, he said.

Now that Intel has publically discussed its extensions technology, the news that HP will release Opteron products is not as ground-breaking as it would have been a few weeks ago, said Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff. HP signalled its interest in x86 extensions technology in January, but did not indicate which supplier it preferred at that time.

Intel is scheduled to release the Nocona processor some time in the second quarter, which means systems based on that chip probably will not be available until the end of the second quarter or the beginning of the third quarter, Haff said.

Adopting Opteron would give HP a chance to enter the market now and not lose any sales waiting for Nocona, he added.

HP rival Dell has shown no interest in Opteron, saying at the Intel Developer Forum last week that it did not think a broad enough market was willing to purchase Opteron servers at this time. If Dell is unwilling to participate, this is one more reason why HP would want to enter the market, Haff said.

Dell is HP's strongest competitor in the low-end server market, Haff said. Because HP competes on product differentiation while Dell competes on price, having Opteron servers in the product line gives HP another way to differentiate itself from Dell, he added.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service


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