HP to unveil Itanium blades next week

Hewlett-Packard is expected to announce its first blade servers that use Intel’s Itanium processor on Tuesday, sources familiar with the product plans said.

HP is currently the second-place blade seller after IBM, and together the companies account for the lion’s share of shipments and revenue for the thin servers. Right now, one difference between their products is that IBM’s Power processor-based blade can run the company’s version of Unix, AIX, but HP’s machine can’t run its own take on the operating system.

That will change with HP’s Itanium blades, which can run the HP-UX version of Unix. Itanium-based computers also can run Linux and Microsoft Windows.

Blade servers are slim machines that slide side-by-side into a chassis that supplies common power, cooling and networking infrastructure. Server makers are interested in the market as a way to stand above the common herd of mainstream servers and to tap into a business that’s growing 10 times faster than the overall server market. In the second quarter of 2005, blade server revenue grew 49 percent to $419 million compared with the overall server market’s 4.7 percent growth to $12.2 billion, according to Gartner research. Most blade servers use x86 processors, such as Intel’s Xeon and Advanced Micro Devices’ Opteron, which both IBM and HP use in their blade servers. Rival Dell sells Xeon-based blades, and Sun Microsystems, the fourth major server maker, plans to release Opteron-based blades in coming months.

HP, based in Palo Alto, Calif., declined to comment. However, in 2004, the company said it expected Itanium blades in mid-2005.

HP initiated the chip project that became Itanium and helped Intel develop early models. The next Itanium, a dual-core chip code-named Montecito, has been delayed until mid-2006.


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