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HP this week fulfilled its promise and unveiled its 4-way servers powered by AMD Opteron microprocessors. Ahead of Sun Microelectronics and International Business Machines, HP is the first tier-one vendor to offer its clients 4P AMD64 systems.

ProLiant DL585 servers from HP inherit quite some capabilities from Intel Xeon MP-based DL580/DL580-G2 computers, however, there are some major changes between the 4U systems in addition to natural differences in core-logic components and other peculiarities of the platforms.

Firstly, the ProLiant DL585 can install 64GB of memory, in contrast to DL580’s ability to handle up to 32GB of memory; Secondly, the ProLiant DL585 features 8 64-bit PCI-X 100/133MHz slots, while the DL580 series offers only 6 PCI-X 100MHz slots, but also provides hot-plug capability; Thirdly, AMD64-based machine boasts with dual-port PCI-X Gigabit Ethernet adapter, the Xeon MP-powered server has single port GbE; Fourthly, the ProLiant DL585 does not boast with HP’s advanced memory protection that allows to mirror or change memory modules while the server is running;

For some reason, the default configuration of the HP ProLiant DL585 includes only 2 AMD Opteron processors 800-series at clock-speeds of 1.60GHz, 1.80GHz or 2.20GHz. In order to get 4-way system, customers have to order it directly from HP.

HP spokesman told InfoWorld that an entry level two-processor configuration of the DL585 built with AMD’s fastest-performing 2.20GHz Opteron 848 processors costs $11 999. A similar configuration of the DL580, based on Intel’s Xeon MP 2.80GHz will list for $15 798.

HP’s introduction of 4-way enterprise machines powered by AMD’s 64-bit processors transfers AMD and its server chips into the whole new level. Previously there were no enterprise AMD-based servers from the first-tier vendors. With actual products now available, customers will turn their heads in the Opteron direction. AMD’s traditional cost advantage may play an important role in the successful market penetration by the chips, however, since enterprise customers are more interested in problem-free operation and reliability, the main task for AMD and its server partners is to polish the Opteron and supporting technologies.

IDC believes that AMD Opteron processors were found in roughly 800 servers out of 228 000 of all 4-way servers sold worldwide in 2003. With HP and some other partners picking up later, AMD is likely to boost the sales of its Opteron processors for MP applications, however, a breakthrough with MP machines for AMD is unlikely to happen this year.

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