HP Embarks On 'Odyssey' To Unify Mission-Critical x86, Itanium Platforms

Hewlett-Packard this month unveiled a mission-critical server strategy calling for the integration of x86 server blades into its Integrity Superdome 2 Itanium-based servers, the introduction of new scalable c-Class blade enclosures, and the porting of HP-UX Unix features to Windows and Linux.

That strategy, dubbed "Odyssey" by HP, gives customers of Intel's Itanium-based Integrity servers targeting the HP-UX Unix market a way to gradually move their mission-critical workloads to Windows or Linux without disrupting existing investments in their Integrity architecture.

The Odyssey project lays the groundwork for the gradual unification of Unix and x86 architectures over the next couple of years, said Kate O'Neill, product marketing manager for HP's Business Critical Systems division.

"We want to make sure Windows and Linux have the same mission-critical capabilities as HP-UX," O'Neill said. "We want to give customers flexibility in their mission-critical choice."

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HP's new server strategy comes in the wake of Oracle's decision earlier this year to end development of its software for HP's Itanium-based Integrity server platform.

The on-going dispute between HP and Oracle was behind both vendors' loss of server market share to IBM during the third quarter of this year, based on a recent Gartner report.

O'Neill said Odyssey was not a response to Oracle's actions or what Gartner reported as a drop in HP's Unix server business.

"The Oracle situation created uncertainty," she said. "But customers see that whatever investment they make in Integrity, they will be protected in the future."

O'Neill said there is no short-term pressure for customers to move from HP-UX.

Oracle has promised to support its Oracle 11g software in Integrity platforms through 2018, and few are in a hurry to adopt Oracle 12, she said.

"Lots of customers are still running Oracle 8," she said. "Customers are not adopting new software as fast as its available. Customers are not pressured to move to Oracle 12."

Kevin Garrison, vice president of sales at Lilien Systems, a Larkspur, Calif.-based solution provider and long-term HP partner, said his company is seeing little to no interest in customers to move away from Oracle software running on HP-UX for now.

"The conversations we are having are, [about] at what point in the future does the Oracle decision have an impact," Garrison said. "Our best answer is about five years from now. So it's not an issue for the next few years."

The timing of HP's Odyssey products is unclear, but even if nothing becomes available for the next couple years, there should be little concern among customers, Garrison said. "HP is buying more time," he said.

Migrating from Oracle on HP-UX Unix is not anything customers should be concerned about today, Garrison said.

"No customers are running Oracle 12 today," he said. "Some are running Oracle 11, or 10, or 9, or even a few on Oracle 8.

"It's a two-year program to migrate some of these applications. At some point, it will be a concern," he added. "That's why we talk about a five-year horizon. It gives customers three years to decide, and two years to move."

Odyssey will provide customers with uncompromised investment protection whether they continue to run HP-UX, or open systems workloads, or transition some of their workloads from Unix to other operating platforms, O'Neill said.

Next: Offering Customers A Future Choice When They Are Ready To Choose

"It offers customers a path to whatever mission-critical solutions they want to run in their environments," she said. "We don't see customers looking to move from HP-UX. But if they do decide to move from Unix, including customers currently running (IBM's) AIX or (Oracle's) Solaris, they will see HP's mission-critical environment as an option."

HP's Odyssey development roadmap includes enhancements to its HP Integrity and HP NonStop server lines and its HP-UX and OpenVMS operating system to gradually integrate Windows and Linux workloads running on Intel Xeon processors into a combined mission-critical architecture.

It includes HP working closely with Microsoft and with the open-source Linux community to improve the ability to harden mission-critical applications in part by transferring some of the vendor's HP-UX intellectual property, O'Neill said.

HP's first productization of its Odyssey strategy, code-named "DragonHawk," will be new Intel Xeon processor-based blades that connect to the current installed base of Integrity Superdome 2 servers, allowing customers to simultaneously run mission-critical Unix, Windows, and Linux applications.

DragonHawk is expected to ship sometime in the next one to two years, O'Neill said.

HP for now is not planning to port Unix to x86-based servers, O'Neill said. "No, that's not a part of this news," she said.

The strategy behind DragonHawk is similar to what IBM has been doing for several years with its mainframe and its Unix-based server platforms.

IBM, which has been supporting Linux in its mainframes for over a decade, earlier this month added Windows support via new x86 processor-based blades that plug into IBM's zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension.

IBM also provides x86-based blades to run Linux applications in its Power7 processor-based servers.

Project Odyssey also includes plans for the introduction of a new scalable c-Class blade servers code named "HydraLynx," O'Neill said. HydraLynx will include two-socket, four-socket, and eight-socket x86 server blades with mission-critical virtualization and availability and packaged in HP's c-Class BladeSystem enclosures.

HP also plans to bring its nPartitions (nPars) technology, which provides electrically isolated partitions for multiple or variable workloads to eliminate potential points of failure, she said.

O'Neill said Odyssey is not HP's first move to bring mission-critical applications to x86 processor-based environments. "Customers are already running pretty significant workloads on our ProLiant DL980 servers," she said. "The DL980 already has scalability and resiliency features from our Integrity servers."