Big announcements for HP !
As internally already rumored, the next generation of Superdome 2 servers will be able to use x86 processors, such as the Intel Xeon and run Linux x86_64 natively !
As stated in this press conference, HP has launched a project called “Odissey” that will probably be a complete game changer in the x86 industry.
So far, only HP-UX could be run on a Superdome, but now, customers will have the capability of running HP-UX as well as Linux in the same Superdome server. The lowest-level virtualization layer of the Superdome is the nPar (node partition) and is an electrically-isolated group of Superdome cells (the picture on the right shows the SD2 enclosure populated with cell blades). As nPars are electrically isolated from each other, it will be possible to have nPars equipped with Xeon CPUs and other nPars with Itanium CPUs. Just as the first generation of Superdomes could run PA-RISC and Itanium processors in different nPars in the same server. A mix of CPUs types or families will not be possible.
Of course, the HP-UX cell blade will need Itanium CPUs and the Linux cell blade will need Xeon CPUs (as Linux is not supported on the latest Itanium-based servers), however, this opens the door to bringing Linux to new levels of availability, making use, for example, of the highly available crossbar of the Superdome 2 that routes all IO signals from the IO extenders, which contain the PCI-e cards, to the cell blades. This crossbar is able to retry all possible transactions and to reroute signals to make sure that every IO is performed accurately.
HP-UX will not be ported under under x86 and it will continue to run on the Integrity blades, rx2800 i2 rack-mount servers, as well as on the Superdome cells with Itanium CPUs. Also, this integration will only be for Intel Xeon processors, not AMD Opterons. The development of HP-UX will continue, as the Itanium roadmap still has two CPUs codenamed “Poulson” and “Kittson” to be delivered in the future.
It would be possible to run Linux (with the current Xeon CPUs – the number of cores of Intel’s next platform, codenamed Sandy bridge, for servers is not clear as of now) on 32 sockets, or 320 cores, or 640 threads !! That is huge and great news for all the customers who wanted to switch smoothly from Unix to Linux, or needed scale-up servers going beyond the 8 sockets provided by most of the vendors.
Also, the Integrity blades, which were very modular (they could be extended from two sockets to four sockets and even to eight sockets by just combining blades together and linking them with a blade link pictured below), will also be made available for Xeon processors.
The new servers (Superdome 2 and scalable blades) are planned for 2013.
Finally, HP announced that the Linux HA portfolio would be similar to the HP-UX one, which means that ServiceGuard for Linux (that was stopped two years ago) will be reactivated.
I think that all these announcements are great news for Linux customers who wanted to push their Linux infrastructures to mission-critical levels. Although HP-UX still has a clear roadmap, the attractiveness of the Xeon processor with Linux on such a scalable and available platform will be very strong.
This offer could also be interesting for customers of other commercial Unix versions by offering amazing scale-up capabilities for Linux on the x86 platform, which is the most open one.