HPE Puts Heat On Unix Workstations, Four Socket Servers With New Superdome Flex In Memory Database Platform

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Monday unveiled a new Superdome Flex product that is aimed squarely at displacing both Unix workstations and four socket servers running memory intensive database applications.

The Intel Skylake Xeon based product brings the price point of high performance compute in memory database technology in the Unix workstation market down by a whopping 50- 75 percent, said HPE Vice President and General Manager Synergy and Mission Critical Servers Randy Meyer. That is going to take a bite out of workstation based systems that were running Oracle Solaris or even HP's own HP-UX Unix offering, he said.

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"This is taking costs down in that Unix environment by orders of magnitude," said Meyer. "You can be very aggressive in a Unix environment with that kind of pricing. You are seeing massive amounts of costs being taken out because you are moving to standard operating systems and software with Intel Xeon versus custom silicon RISC chips. This is a chance for us to go really full on in the midmarket."

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Meyer did not have specific pricing on the new systems but he conceded that it would be possible for complex database applications that would have previously cost $1 million to come in as low as $250,000.

That new price point puts both Unix workstations that were running compute intensive database applications and even four socket servers into the Superdome Flex line of fire.

The price performance breakthrough for the first time puts Superdome Flex into the heart of the midmarket where customers previously would not have even considered an in memory SAP HANA, Oracle Database or even a Microsoft SQL server system because of the once high price tag associated with such technology. "Solution providers can now deliver a high end mission critical availability experience to customers running these database applications at an Intel price point," Meyer said.

The biggest game changer is in the four socket server market where customers running HANA, Oracle or SQL server can now get mission critical availability starting with a two or four terabyte data set, said Meyer. "This opens up a tremendous amount of midsized customers to this technology and if they double that data set in a year they don't have to change their architecture," he said.
The price performance breakthrough that HPE is bringing to market puts the Superdome Flex into an in memory battle against the likes of Intel based four socket offerings from the likes of Dell EMC and Lenovo.

"We are landing right on top of those four socket systems with the same Intel CPU and memory, but you get all the resilence and scale of Superdome," said Meyer. "If you buy a standard four socket that is as big as you are going to get. If you want to do anything more you have to cluster them. With Superdome you get the Intel price performance curve with a data center resilence environment."

The Superdome Flex move into the heart of the four socket server market increases the total addressable market (TAM) for the Superdome by a mind boggling 10 to 20 times, said Meyer. "This database server market overall is about $6 to $8 billion," he said. "Easily half of that is addressable with this product. There is a huge opportunity. It's a multi-billion dollar TAM."

HPE has already been working with Microsoft to target smaller mission critical SQL Server databases, said Meyer. "That is going to be a real growth area for us," said Meyer.
The Superdome Flex product marks the the first time that HPE has combined the robust SGI high performance modular compute NUMAlink technology that is got when it acquired SGI one year ago for $275 million with the breakthrough price performance of the x86 Intel Xeon platform. Before now, the NUMAlink technology was available only in a high performance niche with custom code and analytics.

That NUMAlink technology is custom silicon that allows HPE to create a modular four socket building block and create a scalable mesh in memory network, said Meyer. "That technology gives you scale up at a very low cost with a standard rack mount modular form factor," he said. "That has a lot less infrastructure costs than a backplane and bladed chassis (in a custom silicon RISC based environment)."

The SGI NUMAlink technology, in fact, opened the door for HPE to break a high compute price performance barrier of sorts in the four socket server market starting with 768 Gbyte of memory that can be scaled up into a 32 socket 48 terabyte memory system, said Meyer.

"This is the first big product that we have got that is embedding the hardware scale up technology that we got when we bought SGI a year ago and combining it with the HPE resilence technology," said Meyer. ""The team did a great job getting this product out You can start really small with mission critical resilence for big database/analytics and scale up to the biggest workloads in the world. It's game changing because of the flexibility it gives customers. At the high end literally nobody on the planet can touch this."

As part of the Superdome Flex go to market, HPE is targeting midmarket infrastructure solution providers that in the past would not have considered selling in memory systems. The prior Superdome X platform- which was unveiled in 2014- was not as good a fit for midmarket focused solution providers, said Meyer.

"The new product gives resellers a rack mount four socket form factor that they can layer higher value services around with availability, database setup, administration and performance tuning," he said. "If I were a reseller I'd be looking at the installed Unix accounts. There is huge opportunity here for partners to migrate customers from Unix to Linux. That's a services opportunity for savvy resellers. You can start at a small, midsize or even large starting point depending on the customer requirements. This flexes to what ever size customers need."

HPE – which is offering its own Pointnext advisory and professional services with the new platform- begins shipping in small quantities in the next several weeks with larger quantities projected for the end of the year.

Early customers include high performance computing customers doing medical and astrophysics research. "We have got aerospace customers doing HANA," Meyer said. "Customers say they are able to crunch so much data with these products it is going to change their life."

The Superdome Flex introduction comes with HPE's high performance compute business growing at a 40 percent clip in the most recent quarter with 10 percent organic growth.

Raymond Tuchman, CEO of Experis Technology Group, a Potomac, Md., HPE partner, said the new Superdome Flex opens a whole new high end database market to solution providers. "This opens up the high performance Oracle database market to us," he said. "Before now, we haven't had a product to go after that market. Now we can go to these Unix customers and provide them an extremely cost effective Supercomputer. We are going to find those new opportunities and attack them with Superdome Flex."

Tuchman said the new product is a testament to the technology innovation that HPE got when it acquired SGI. "SGI has fantastic hardware and high performance systems, but it was a proprietary market approach," he said. "With HPE bringing the SGI technology into mainstream it should really blossom. Now we can bring a whole series of HPE systems to market starting with smaller systems all the way to high performance systems."

Tuchman compared HPE's move to mainstream the SGI technology to its blockbuster acquisition of 3Par seven years ago. That deal resulted in astronomical storage sales growth for HPE partners."When HPE bought 3Par it was very expensive and then HPE put it into mass production and it became much less expensive," he said. "That's what I see happening with the SGI technology."