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Hewlett-Packard Co. is developing blade servers that will be powered by Intel Corp.’s Itanium chip, another push by the company to bring 64-bit capability to the dense form factor.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company already is on track to roll out in the second half of the year a ProLiant blade server powered by Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s 64-bit Opteron processor that is aimed at the high-performance computing space. In addition, HP will use Intel’s upcoming Nocona chip—the first 32-bit Xeon processor with 64-bit extensions—in some of its blades, although a spokesman declined to release details of the plan.

Intel is scheduled to release Nocona later this month.

Intel will follow Nocona with 64-bit extensions for Prescott. Click here to read the full story.

An Itanium-based server would give enterprises the best 64-bit performance as well as a wide range of operating system support, according to HP officials. It also would give HP a variety of blade offerings, from one- to four-way blades with processors from AMD, Intel and Transmeta Corp.

An HP spokesman declined to give a timetable for the Itanium-based system.

NEC Solutions America Inc., of Rancho Cordova, Calif., announced this week that it will start shipping the Express5800/1200Ba, a two-way blade server powered by Intel’s upcoming Itanium 2 9M chip, in September, when the new processor is released.

For its part, IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., has declined to comment on whether it will use Itanium in any future BladeCenter systems, though officials have said they will refresh the entire xSeries line of servers—as well as the blades—with Nocona when it is released.

IBM also offers its BladeCenter JS20, powered by its 64-bit 1.6GHz PowerPC 970 chips.

HP’s Itanium plans were rolled into a larger announcement Thursday touting its blade success and plans to expand the line.

Blade servers have gained the most traction in the HPC (high-performance computing) space, but proponents say it is becoming more widespread in enterprise data centers. Research firm IDC sees it becoming a $7 billion market by 2007.

“It’s still an emerging market, but the growth rates are good,” said James Mouton, vice president of platforms for HP’s Industry Standard Server Group.

HP and IBM have been most aggressive in building out their blade offerings. For example, HP currently offers VMware Inc.’s ESX Server virtualization product in one- and two-way ProLiant BL20p blades. Mouton said there are no current plans to put the virtualization product into its four-way BL40p.

In addition, the ProLiant BL30p, which was announced in March, is now available, starting at $2,349.

The “double-dense” blade, equipped with two Intel Xeon processors and aimed at small and midsize businesses, is targeted for such jobs as Web hosting, application serving, clusters and grids.

Two BL30p systems can fit into a single metal container, which can then slide into the same space that a single BL20p occupies. The result is that a single HP enclosure can double its processing power from 16 to 32 chips, thus enabling a standard rack to accommodate 192 processors.

For the BL30p, HP kept many of the features in the BL20p—including Fibre Channel and Ethernet connectivity—but removed other offerings that are less important to smaller businesses, such as SCSI hard drives.

In addition, HP is offering a package on the BL20p that includes VMware’s ESX Server and VirtualCenter management software, starting at $4,820, and a Virtual Infrastructure Node that includes a chassis with eight two-way BL20p systems, ESX Server, VirtualCenter and VMotion configuration software, starting at $49,376.

HP also announced that it has sold more than 100,000 blades.

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