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Although Intel Corp.'s Xeon microprocessors have gained a number of capabilities that traditionally were only found on central processing units (CPUs) for mission-critical servers and now are no less reliable than Itanium, according to Intel, HP believes that its servers powered by its operating system, its proprietary technologies, Itanium and other solutions still represent the best solutions for business-critical computing.

"With enhancements made in the last year, the question is once again being asked, do x86 servers provide the same mission-critical capabilities as the Itanium-based Integrity servers running HP-UX, OpenVMS or the Integrity NonStop systems. The simple answer is No," recently said Michael McNerney, director of HP BCS hardware planning and marketing.

According to the high-ranking specialist at HP, the company's Integrity environment is a "bullet-proof" mission-critical environment that builds in resiliency at the processor, firmware, server, and operating environment - for a complete mission-critical system.

"Not only has Itanium had many of the “new” resiliency features now found in Xeon such as Double Device Data Correction (DDDC) for years, but these features have been hardened for multiple generations into the Integrity hardware, firmware and HP-UX operating system," said Mr. McNerney.

Presently Intel Itanium has the third generation machine check architecture (MCA) and advanced error containment  and compared to other architectures supports both consumed and unconsumed errors, according to the HP expert.

"The important differentiator is that the hardware, firmware and operating system need to support the advanced resiliency features. So if the processor supports hot-swap memory, but the system (hardware, firmware and OS) don't support the feature the benefit is unrealized," stressed Mr. McNerney.

Although both Intel and HP have been quite about the roadmap for the Itanium microprocessors that should arrive after code-named Kittson chip in the middle of the decade, the director at HP insists that the Itanium processor has and will continue to add new resiliency features to meet the "ever greater demands of the mission-critical market".

Intel recently disclosed additional details about the upcoming Itanium Poulson processor and outlined expanded resiliency features that included: error prevention, end to end error correction and improved firmware error handling.

"The key point to remember when talking about mission-critical systems is that it is about more than the processor, it is in fact about the total system and what you do to build resiliency in across the system. What differentiates our Integrity product line from other options in the market is  not just the Itanium processor, but the hardware, the firmware and the HP-UX operating system that provide advance resiliency," noted Michael McNerney.

Among the features that HP's platforms have, the HP representative noted the following:

  • Superdome Crossbar Fabric with no single points of failure in the datapath;
  • Superdome Analysis Engine providing the intelligence to keep the system running when errors occur that would otherwise take the system down;
  • Electrically isolated hard partitions crucial for mission-critical virtualization.

"The Xeon processor continues to add new resiliency features but Xeon processors don’t compare to the Itanium-based HP Integrity systems which have had these features for multiple generations and they have been hardened into the Integrity hardware, firmware and HP-UX operating system," concluded the business-critical computing specialist.

Tags: Itanium, HP, HP-UX, Intel, IA64, Kittson, Poulson

Discussion

Comments currently: 3
Discussion started: 05/24/11 11:15:34 AM
Latest comment: 05/26/11 12:03:22 AM
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1. 
the big story is that itanium represents the goldplated/glasshouse/mainframe way to engineer servers: make every part as good as possible to minimize MTBF. the alternative approach is to use redundancy to create robustness: RAID disks, multiple networked servers, etc. the latter is where all the growth is, so even if itanium manages a nonzero growth rate, it's lunch is still relatively more and more eaten...

no tears here. bespoke hardware is for rich idiots.
0 0 [Posted by: markhahn  | Date: 05/24/11 11:15:34 AM]
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Itanium has more extensive options for redundancy than x86 does, which is exactly why it is used in some cases where the overwhelming cost of downtime renders hardware costs irrelevant. For instance, CPU lockstepping and resiliency to cache/bus failure are very difficult and expensive to implement reliably in software on top of a cluster built from commodity hardware, and the performance of the resulting system, without hardware support for these features, is likely to be worse than that of Itanium anyway. In such cases Itanium, POWER, or even System z might actually be the most economical option.
0 0 [Posted by: MTX  | Date: 05/25/11 05:43:38 AM]
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2. 
If Intel was going to kill the Itanium line then they could build the same enterprise features into a version of their x86-64 line. It would still run 12months or more behind the Xeon. Re-spin with better FPU resources, more cache, more ECC, support for more redundancy etc.
0 0 [Posted by: tygrus  | Date: 05/26/11 12:03:22 AM]
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