HP has released updates to its mission-critical Integrity systems, including enhancements to the HP-UX operating system to improve scalability and downtime, plus new entry-level Integrity NonStop systems that offer continuous availability at a more competitive price level.
The Integrity systems are designed to deliver high availability for mission-critical enterprise applications, and HP is building on this with the latest release of its Unix platform by enabling zero-downtime upgrades, and cutting reboot times for its Superdome systems.
Available immediately, the ponderously named March 2014 release for HP-UX 11i v3 enables customers to take running workloads from older Integrity i2 systems and migrate them to the newer i4 systems without any downtime when carrying out a hardware refresh, according to Ken Surplice, product marketing manager for HP Business Critical Systems in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
"Customers tend to refresh on a three or four-year cycle, and this offers the ability to put in the latest systems with huge improvements in TCO [total cost of ownership] and performance, but eliminate the risk in moving to new infrastructure by setting up the new one, pushing a button, and have virtual workloads migrate dynamically onto the new platform," he told V3.
The i4 generation of Integrity systems, launched at the end of 2012, are based on the latest Intel Itanium 9500 processors, which offer a claimed 3x performance increase through double the number of processor cores and increased clock speeds.
To take advantage of this, the new HP-UX release supports larger workloads by increasing the maximum capacity of virtual machines to 32 processor cores and 256GB of memory.
For HP's high-end Superdome servers, HP-UX also now supports Soft Reboot, which cuts restart times by about 50 percent when upgrading the operating system. Administrators can take a clone of the system disk, apply any patches, flip a switch and boot from new system image without having to do a complete restart from cold.
The updates in this version of HP-UX serve to reassure HP's Unix customers that they should stay with the platform, despite the gradual encroachment of Linux into the Unix market, according to Surplice.
"Many Unix users are scratching their heads and wondering what to do next. Because we're delivering increased TCO on the server side and classic mission-critical improvements on the software side, they can go forward with another Unix iteration, and it's clear that this is the minimum risk path for them right now," he said.
The workloads that were easy to migrate will already have gone over to Linux, Surplice added, so HP is expecting to see Unix stabilise around the true mission-critical heavy workloads, and this is what the firm is targeting.
Meanwhile, HP's fault-tolerant Integrity NonStop systems offer the very highest level of availability through hardware redundancy, but their cost has restricted them to industries such as financial services where any downtime could be disastrous for the business.
Now HP is aiming to make this capability available to a broader range of customers with the introduction of the Integrity NonStop NS2300 and NS2400 servers, which are expected to come in at around the $100,000 price point.
These still run the HP NonStop operating system, which includes the NonStop SQL database platform and are based on the Itanium 9500 processors, but are otherwise built from standard components
"Where failure is not an option, NonStop is the answer. In the past, this came at a cost, but you could justify it by the potential cost of downtime very easily. Today, if you were to look inside a NonStop machine, you would feel at home because it is using common components, just a short step away from x86," Surplice said.
"We're still looking for customers who will invest a little more to get continuous application availability, but the entry point has come down and the workloads they can handle are much greater, but it's still for when you cannot afford failure," he added.
HP has already confirmed that it will introduce x86 processors into the NonStop systems in the near future, but the firm still has no plans to migrate HP-UX to x86.
"The software providers do not want yet another port to support. Could we port HP-UX to x86? Yes we could. Do we believe that the software vendors would move their applications across? No, I don't think they would," Surplice said.
The Integrity NonStop NS2300 and NS2400 servers are available for order now, while customers with a support contract will automatically receive the new March 2014 release for HP-UX 11i v3. It will also be pre-loaded on any new systems delivered, HP said.
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