HP takes aim at 'scale-out' datacentres

New ProLiants are at the centre of HP's push into the 'scale-out' market, where datacentres with thousands of servers deal with cloud, Web 2.0 and high-performance computing
Written by Sally Whittle, Contributor

HP has joined Dell, IBM and SGI in launching a range of products tailored to cloud, Web 2.0 and high-performance computing.

The HP Extreme Scale-Out (ExSO) package, announced on Wednesday, covers hardware, software and services for datacentres with thousands of servers.

At the heart of the ExSO package is the new HP ProLiant SL6000 server line. The modular systems will initially include three server nodes, and will all feature a lightweight chassis (30 percent lighter than a conventional ProLiant) and power-efficiency features designed specifically for the extreme scale-out market.

"With an ExSO server, you have a very light chassis, with all the unnecessary features stripped out to improve energy consumption and performance," said Clive Longbottom, a research director at Quocirca.

Scale-out computing uses very large numbers of small servers in a datacentre, an approach often favoured for high-performance, Web 2.0 and cloud computing applications. Adding 10,000 smaller servers to a datacentre is usually cheaper than providing the equivalent additional capacity to a mainframe or supercomputer environment, providing you have the necessary space and power.

HP is relatively late to the scale-out server market, and the new hardware will compete against existing technology for scale-out environments. These include IBM's iDataPlex and Dell's Fortuna, which is currently available only in the US.

"Some of our competitors have launched products in this space, but they can be proprietary or are available on limited release, whereas we've committed to open technologies, and have integrated this with the whole ProLiant family, which has brought huge economies of scale," said Ed Turkel, manager for SCI product and technology marketing at HP.

HP's existing range of ExSO services may help it gain traction in this crowded market, says Nathaniel Martinez, a programme director at research firm IDC.

"HP has a good legacy in software, and the acquisition of EYP means it has a good service offering in this space," said Martinez, referring to the company's 2007 purchase of datacentre cooling and energy-efficiency specialist EYP Mission Critical Facilities. "The sales cycle for this kind of product is relatively long, and this puts HP in a strong position," Martinez added.

The ProLiant SL2x170z will incorporate two servers in a 1U tray, while the SL160z is designed for large memory-cache applications and offers 18 dual memory module slots and two PCI slots. Finally, the SL170z will have six large form-factor Serial ATA or serial attached SCSI hard drives.

The new servers will be available in from July, and pricing will be released at that time, HP said.

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