Blade architecture halves footprint of HP Superdome systems

HP has updated its range of "mainframe alternative" servers, and introduced a new blade form factor for its mission-critical computing systems.

HP has updated its range of "mainframe alternative" servers, and introduced a new blade form factor for its mission-critical computing systems.

The new designs - the first major upgrade to Superdome for a decade - create a new systems architecture for high-performance HP systems, including those running HP-UX Unix.

The architecture, which HP terms "Blade Scale", runs from industry-standard x86 servers through to Superdome 2.

Superdome systems are now available as blades, running Intel's 9300 processors, and use HP's Crossbar fabric for communication between blades and for IO. This, HP claims, provides "breakthrough availability" to Superdome systems.

For IT managers struggling with space, cooling and maintenance, the high degree of common components across the system will bring immediate benefits. Power supplies, for example, can be swapped between Superdome and Integrity server blades, as can HP's networking modules, HP Virtual Connect.

The Unix-based Integrity blades go up to eight sockets, which HP claims is an industry first. A new Blade Link technology, a front plate that can be installed across blades without tools, allows IT managers to combine Integrity blades to make two-, four-, or eight-socket systems.

Further benefits of the new architecture include reduced power and cooling costs - with power demands cut by as much as a third - and for Superdome users, a far more compact form factor.

Superdome systems now fit into a standard 19-inch rack enclosure, rather than the double-width units used with the original Superdome. HP believes this will give datacentre managers much greater flexibility when it comes to installing mission-critical hardware.

HP executives also said there are customers, especially in areas such as government and defence, who might buy just one or two Superdome blades for specific, local processing tasks where it might not be possible or appropriate to send the task to a remote datacentre. At its Technology@Work event in Frankfurt, HP demonstrated a single 19-inch rack with both Integrity and Superdome blades installed.

Other systems, such as x86 blade or even rack-mount servers, could also be installed alongside Integrity or Superdome in a rack for lower-performance tasks such as file and print sharing. HP believes this type of configuration could be used by branch offices or mid-sized companies looking to free up space in their data rooms.

The blade architecture should also be more economical to deploy and more flexible in service, according to Dave Donatelli, HP's executive vice-president for servers, storage and networking.

"Most people are spending 70% of their IT dollars on existing systems and 30% on things that help their business develop further," he said. "We believe that by changing the way infrastructure is developed, people can reduce that 70% and spend more on innovation."

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