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HP brings its quad-core servers to market

Reports 48 percent performance increase

Today's debut of Intel quad-core-powered computers from HP completes the introduction of quad-core hardware from major computer and server manufacturers.

HP is introducing three new models each of its ProLiant rack servers, BladeSystem servers and HP Workstation computers running on the quad-core Intel Xeon 5300 processor, an upgrade from the dual-core platform.

The HP announcements follow product launches over the last week from Dell, IBM and other OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), all plugging Intel Xeon 5300 quad-cores into the industry standard x86 two-socket configuration.

Intel is getting a head start on rival AMD, whose quad-core processors aren't due out until the middle of 2007.

"This is the major buying area in the market, the two-socket configuration, so this is significant. This is really the bulk of the market," said John Enck, analyst with the research firm Gartner.

A server or workstation running quad-core processors in a two-socket configuration takes up less space, can be more energy-efficient and work faster than dual-core processors in a four-socket configuration, said Jean Bozman, analyst with IDC.

"There are certain workloads that will do pretty well with quad-core right off the bat," Bozman said.

Quad-core can handle high-performance computing tasks better than dual-core because it can better manage highly parallel workloads in which a lot of different tasks are happening separately, she said. Database work would also be easier because multiple components of those workloads could be spread across the cores.

Quad-core processors also make it easier to virtualise the data center; that is, run multiple software applications on the same physical server as though they were actually running each on their own virtual server, thus making better use of server capacity.

"Assuming that you have the other system resources scaled appropriately such as memory, that does mean you can potentially support more virtual machines on one of these processors," said Gordon Haff, analyst with Illuminata.

HP reports performance increased by 48 percent running an SAP software application on a quad-core server over a dual-core server, and that it didn't require more electricity to run the faster server, said John Gromala, director of product marketing for HP's ProLiant line.

"This kind of growth in performance is something that IT departments rely on to meet the demands that are being put on them," Gramola said.

But faster processors alone may not make IT buyers run out for the quad-core models, Haff said. It's not like Microsoft is launching a new OS (operating system) that spurs personal computer sales.

"This is a fairly nice performance upgrade for Intel for at least most workloads. But it's not something that I would expect to radically change end-user purchasing behaviour," he said. In order to buy, users would want to be sure that the quad-core processor is matched by improved memory, a faster network connection and better storage to improve their data centre overall.

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