Eight-way Takes a Body Blow
After a swift rise and successful reign, it's the end of an era for eight-way
Not long ago the eight-processor
server represented the pinnacle of
Windows scalability. The eight-way
ushered Windows NT 4.0 into the
rarified top 10 of the closely watched OLTP benchmark, the TPC-C. Later, a cluster of eight-ways running
Windows 2000 and SQL Server 2000 held the top spot on the same
benchmark for months.
In the real world, the eight-way anchored some of the biggest Microsoft-based databases. Microsoft cracked the most recent Winter Corp. survey of the 10 largest production databases in late 2003. The servers running the 5.3TB, 33-billion-row Verizon Communications database weren't on some behemoth like the
32-processor Unisys ES7000. The
database ran on a cluster of Compaq ProLiant eight-ways.
| With dual-core processors coming, HP expects four-way servers like the new HP ProLiant DL580 G3 to fill the niche currently occupied by eight-ways.
The eight-way server took what is probably its death blow in March when Hewlett-Packard disclosed plans to discontinue the line in mid-2006. Dell bowed out of the eight-way market in July 2003. HP's move is especially telling,
as the Compaq ProLiant brand it inherited was the flagship of the
Dell's decision came as the cost-conscious company shifted away from the engineering-intensive design of SMP chipsets toward smaller, commodity servers. Dell favors two-way servers that function well as nodes in scale-out computing environments.
The other x86 server industry giant, IBM, continues to sell eight-processor machines. Like Unisys, which also offers eight-ways, IBM's eight-ways are a step in a modular server system that can scale from four processors all the way up to 32. When HP stops selling its eight-ways, this era of distinct
eight-way x86 units will be over.
But it's out with the old, in with the new. HP announced the shutdown of the ProLiant eight-way line as it brought up two new servers based on Intel's "Truland" platform.
Truland includes a chipset and processors that will support 64-bit extensions and dual-core processors
for the Xeon Processor MP line of chips designed for four-way and
larger systems. The 64-bit extension technology is available in current chips. The first dual-core chip for Truland, dubbed "Paxville," will be available in the first quarter of 2006.
"With the emergence of dual-core processors in the four-processor
x86 market … HP will satisfy the
vast majority of current eight-way
performance requirements with
four-processor, eight-core ProLiant servers," says Colin Lacey, director of platform marketing for Industry
Standard Servers at HP.
The eight-way could mount a
comeback someday if the scale of
64-bit applications somehow explodes or if multi-core technology flops.
Most likely, though, the need for these SMP systems will fade as the number of cores per processor multiplies.