HP, NEC to develop next-generation x86 servers

The companies said they will expand their long partnership to speed the introduction of x86 to HP's Itanium-based server lineup

Hewlett-Packard and Japan's NEC will expand their existing partnership to develop high-end x86-based servers for cloud and Web applications.

The companies said Thursday they will team up to accelerate research on HP's next generation of blade-based server systems, which the U.S. company is gradually introducing alongside its traditional Itanium Unix-based servers. They said their focus will be on creating x86 hardware that can run with the same reliability as the Unix products, which can then be employed in mission-critical roles running today's social networks, mobile applications, and cloud-based services.

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HP is trying to catch up to rivals such as Amazon Web Services in the growing market for cloud services, while also stay competitive in hardware amid a general shift away from Unix. The company announced a strategy to pursue a hybrid cloud approach last year, based on a solution it is calling HP Converged Cloud. Last month it announced a new operating system for cloud computing, HP Cloud OS, built on the open-source hosting software platform OpenStack, but said initially the new operating system will only run on its own hardware.

The new partnership will aim to speed up the development of HP's Project Odyssey, which it first announced in 2011. The project is an attempt to integrate x86 server blades running Windows or Linux with its Itanium-based server lineup based on Unix. NEC said the companies will specifically focus on a system that HP has been developing for years called "DragonHawk," which is supposed to be able to incorporate both types of servers into a single cabinet but has been slow to materialize.

HP and NEC first began working together in 1995, offering systems built on HP's Unix-based solutions.

NEC is also trying to expand its cloud offerings, competing with local rivals like Fujitsu, which is closely allied with HP rival Oracle in server hardware. NEC runs a dozen data centers across Japan, where it counts major domestic firms and local governments among its clients.

HP is trying to turn itself around as its main PC division suffers from an overall decline in the market, and its server business attempts to adjust to the rise in cloud-based services. In May, HP said profit for the first quarter dropped 32 percent from a year earlier as sales in both its PC division and business server fell sharply. Last year the company took an $8.8 billion charge related to its acquisition of U.K. software firm Autonomy.

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