HP doubles up Itanium processors

The mx2 processor board crams two 64-bit Madison cores into the space that a single Itanium used to occupy, meaning an easy upgrade for HP customers

HP showed off a board at its ENSA@Work customer event in Munich on Tuesday that packs two Madison Itanium2 cores onto a single processor board. This will enable owners of mid- and high-range HP servers (everything with four or more processor sockets) to double the number of processors. The mx2 board means that HP's high-end servers will now be able to accommodate up to 128 processors.

The company said this will allow owners of mid-range servers to almost double performance in the same space, while drawing the same power and emitting the same amount of heat as current systems.

Although it is essentially just a component, the mx2 board is a key part of HP's strategy to provide an upgrade path to customers currently on PA-RISC, as well as those just looking for more performance from their existing Itanium systems.

 "Today a customer may have a server that uses the (dual-core) PA 8800 chip," said Paul Miller, vice president of marketing for industry standard servers at HP. "So for instance, they get PA-RISC processors running in a chassis. If they decide they want to upgrade to Itanium, then they can take the PA-RISC interface out and plug a Madison (Itanium2) board in, and later upgrade to the mx2 boards - so they will have done two upgrades in the same box."

Miller said that customers will not have to make any changes to fans or power supply to make the upgrade. "We used a 1.1 GHz processor core in the mx2 board. We wanted to stay within the thermal footprint of current systems," he said.

HP hopes to bring out an mx3 and mx4 in the future, but has no definite plans right now. Fitting more chips onto the board will depend on Intel reducing the power requirements and improving the heat dissipation of the Itanium line of processors. Whatever happens, said Miller, the mx boards would be highly unlikely to house the fastest processors available.

"If you always go for maximum clock speed, then you are also going for maximum heat generation. That wouldn't be the way to go."