rolls out carpet of new 3000s
boxes offer 10X IO improvement
which own HP 3000s can now hear the sound of carpets in their future.
The first PCI bus 3000 systems arrive with the swoosh of a magic
carpet, carrying customers to faster computing with a ten times
improvement in IO. Thats accompanied by the sound of the
current systems being tugged from under customers feet
HP rolled its entire product line in February, with end of support
announcements coming for all of its current systems.
At no time in recent memory has the lineup for 3000
ownership been set so: it is composed entirely of systems just
announced with new architecture, or computers whose end of support
date is already known. The HP 3000 division (CSY) expressed enough
confidence in the new offerings to sweep everything else in the 3000
product line aside by the year 2006.
Leading the surprises for the
long-anticipated announcement is the March shipment of the first
A-Class systems. But the computers which will show the greatest leap
in performance are further up the alphabet at the N-Class, where HP
has worked to take MPE/iX systems into new speed
The schedule of releases carries some surprise as
well. CSY wants to get its newest iron into the market so quickly
that its willing to keep some of the computers features
in the lab for as long as another six months. At initial release in
March, the N-Class systems will be offered in single-processor
configurations only, and their memory limits will be fixed at
The N-Class rolls out with four PA-RISC processor
speeds: 220-, 330-, and 440-MHz of the PA-8500 chips, and 550-MHz for
the PA-8600 at the top of the line. Current HP e3000 chips for the
Series 989/150s are clocked at 240-MHz. Once HP ships the full
N-Class line, it will include uniprocessor models of the 220 and 330
systems, 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-way models of the 440-MHz models, and 3-
and 4-way models of the 550-MHz PA-8600 systems. All N4000 units will
support up to 16Gb of memory, and the line will eventually include
6-way and 8-way systems.
The central enhancement in the N-Class systems which
HP said will ship in March is the new IO bus using PCI technology. HP
said customers can expect an improvement of up to 10 times in
throughput for IO, a serious upgrade for a system known as an online
All systems include
unlimited MPE/iX licenses. US priced, without disk or
Performance (918 = 1.3)
The HP e3000 Model N4000 4-way 550 carries a 3000
Performance Unit rating of 72, about 35 percent faster than the
previous top of the line, the 12-way Series 997 system.
The N Class systems use a PA-8600 processor, faster
than the PA-8200 used in the 997s. But far more of the performance
improvement comes from the PCI bus, which moves 440Mb per second of
data compared to the 32Mb per second of the 900 Series HP
Were not going to be limited in some of
the ways we have been by disks, and things like that, said
Kevin Cooper, CSYs performance engineer.
The N-Class systems come with 12 PCI IO slots, most
of which are dual slots which can handle the equivalent of two cards.
These dual port cards can be single-ended or fast/wide differential
(HVD) the current choices for HP 3000 IO or use the
faster low-voltage differential (LVD) Ultra2 SCSI interface.
HP has taken IO to a new level with the introduction
of the first LVD cards for e3000s. These are same basic cards as the
single-ended cards, but the LVD support means the cards can pass up
to 80Mb per second of data, compared to the 5Mb per second for the
HP officials say that full LVD peripheral support is
still on the horizon for the e3000, but for the time being only
drivers for disk drives over LVD are part of MPE/iX.
N-Class IO cards are also available which support
Fast/Wide Differential (HVD) using the SCSI-2 interface. All
dual-port cards are only supported on the N-Class systems.
Single-port models of the above cards, including the faster LVD, are
supported on both A-Class and N-Class units.
MPE/iX 7.0 is required to run the N-Class systems,
but the initial release of that OS returns to some limits that MPE/iX
6.5 had blown away. For example, the number of LDEVs supported under
base 7.0 will be 253, less than half the number supported under 6.5.
HP plans to synchronize the higher limits of 6.5 with the N-Class in
an Express 1 release of 7.0, expected three to six months after the
March shipment of the N-Class units.
Fiber Channel wont be supported at first
release of the N-Class systems, either. HP is still working on the
high speed interface for the e3000, but isnt ready to commit to
a release date yet. HP is also holding back support for DDS-4 tape
units from the first 7.0 release. CSY is investigating Ultrium tape
support for MPE/iX, but SuperDLT support will arrive
HP said its limiting support for peripherals at
first release to get to market as quickly as possible with the new
Perhaps most significantly, the N-Class will only
ship in single-processor configurations until the Express 1 release
of 7.0 is available. Testing conflicts are delaying the multi-CPU
versions of the N-Class.
When you look at the performance releases we
get just with the uniprocessor version of the N-Class, we actually
cover a very large portion of our existing customers, HP
Platform Planning Manager Dave Snow said. We put several such
limitations in the software to allow us to get the hardware to market
as quickly as possible. He said engineering for multiple
processors and greater than 2Gb of memory wasnt complete when
CSY had to freeze the 7.0 base release for testing in
Its a combination of the re-engineering
and the testing, said CSY general manager Winston Prather.
We wanted to get the product out there so customers could use
it, and then complete the certification for more memory and
HP doesnt expect the delay to hamper sales
much. Our thinking was that big systems in particular sometimes
have a longer sales cycle, Snow said. By the time we
actually get many of those [multi-CPU] orders in, well be
It comes down to optimizing around time to
market, to meet the majority of the customers needs,
Prather said. Clearly we could hold off on the whole thing and
wait for it to be a complete superset. But thats not the right
way to meet customer needs.
Testing for the A-Class systems, which HP released
earlier than expected, meant some N-Class features had to be deferred
until the Express 1 release. Its a zero-sum game,
Snow said. We gave up the possibility of pulling up some of
these other features when we moved up the A-Class.
HP also says the N-Class top-end a 550MhZ,
four-processor model is the best performing batch machine in
the history of the 3000 line. HP points to the batch performance as
one of the most dramatic improvements for the N-Class systems. HP
said that sorting an 800Mb file in a batch job executed in 13 minutes
on a Series 997 system, while the same task finished in 4 minutes on
an N-Class system with a 550-MHz processor.
Batch improvements rely on processor speed, and
introducing the faster PA-8600 chips gives HP a chance to deliver up
to 3 times the batch throughput as is currently available. The
current batch champ is the PA-8200-driven Series 989/150, but even
the slower 440-MHz N4000 systems finish batch jobs twice as
These are the best performing batch machines
ever, Cooper said. The range of the systems performance numbers
runs from a 9.0 on the single processor, 220 MHz N4000 up to the 72.0
of the four-way, 550-MHz N4000. HP includes 3Gb minimum RAM for its
440-MHz models, and 4Gb for the 550-MHz systems.
With the new introductions of the N4000 line, HP has
reset its midranges bottom performance level to almost the top
of the prior midrange performance. A Series 989 single processor
system carries a 9.1 rating, using the most powerful processor in the
3000s current line. Thats just about where the N4000
performance begins with its one-way N4000-220 system.
Changes in tape, support
HP doesnt expect to be selling its current 9x9,
99x and 9x8 servers beyond this year, and its motivating
customers to upgrade with lower support prices. Series 997 owners
will see the greatest savings in support costs by upgrading to an
The N-Class units will also include no internal tape
devices, the first time that backup hasnt been a part of an HP
3000 introduction. HP said that leaving tape outside of its newest
systems the A-Class systems wont have it, either
was a hard call. The same N- and A-Class systems in the HP 9000 line
dont have tape integrated, either, said CSYs
We are leveraging heavily off our HP 9000
brethren, Snow said. People are providing more networked
storage, but that didnt play directly into the 3000 side of the
fence. Lots of small servers want to have a local tape mechanism to
provide backup capability.
HPs pricing for its N-Class units doesnt
include disk or tape devices, although at $3,800 for a 36Gb disk it
wont make much difference in any N4000s total cost. The
low end of the N-Class begins at $69,900 with 512Mb of RAM and
including MPE/iX and the IMAGE/SQL database. Stocking the new top end
of the N-Class with 4Gb of memory results in a system priced at
$538,180 before any discounts.