HP porting venerable Nonstop server platform to x86

The company will offer both Itanium- and x86-based Nonstop servers

By , IDG News Service |  Data Center

That basic design will be carried over to the x86 port, Meyer said. "The architecture is timeless. It's not tied to any one chip technology or storage technology," he said.

But it remains to be seen if HP can replicate the platform's reliability using standard hardware -- and whether customers will stick with it during the transition. Sales in HP's Business Critical Systems group have been declining. They fell 26 percent last quarter, partly because of the uncertainty around Itanium, and partly because cheaper x86 hardware is becoming more reliable and squeezing out higher-end systems.

Meyer said customers should have confidence in HP's ability to port the platform because it's done the same thing before, including the shift from a MIPS design to Itanium.

"We're investing in this for the long haul," he said.

It's not only HP that will have to port its software, however; numerous third-party vendors will have to recompile applications and tools for x86, as well as customers who want to carry over current applications.

Mayer played down the challenge. "The systems will be source code compatible," he said. "As you move to x86 you'll compile it for that environment, so ISVs will have one source tree that they'll test in different environments."

HP also announced Monday that it has started selling Intel's Poulson Itanium chips for its NB56000c and NB56000c-cg NonStop BladeSystems. Poulson is an eight-core chip, though HP is offering four-core variants because customers prefer to spread their workloads over a greater number of processors for reliability reasons, according to Meyer.

It will offer the Poulson chips for its lower-end NS2100 and NS2200 Nonstop rack systems early next year, he said.

HP says it will give customers more information about the x86 plans at its Discover conference in Barcelona next month.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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