HP Weds Cloud and High-performance Computing

While it hasn’t yet decided to offer a cloud computing service, Hewlett-Packard today said it will combine its high-performance computing unit with it’s Web 2.0 and cloud computing infrastructure businesses to create the Scalability Computing Initiative, a name that will refer both to a business unit of HP and a set of hardware, software and services tied to scalable computing.

It also followed its competitors and introduced what HP believes will be the building block for the scalable data center, a new, two-in-one blade server. Like IBM’s iDataPlex, Sun’s Blackbox and Dell’s cloud computing efforts, HP is viewing the noise around cloud computing as a chance to sell more hardware — specialized, HP-built 10u racks of 32 blade servers containing 128 cores, to be exact.

I don’t know how important it is to build out scalable computing efforts with IBM’s iDataPlex or HP’s offerings rather than an array of commodity x86 boxes, but the merging of high-performance computing and cloud computing infrastructure is a triumph of the grid architecture running specialized software. It’s also the same trend that is leading Cray to work with Intel on designing the next generation of supercomputers.

HP’s blade servers are designed to save space in the data centers, but Paul Miller, a VP of marketing with HP, acknowledged that space was not at the premium that power is. Blade servers run pretty hot so it’s counterintuitive to think that cramming two of them in one blade makes much sense from an energy efficiency point of view. Miller said HP’s offering can be used with standard HP racks for water cooling or in conjunction with its Dynamic Smart Cooling technology. Without knowing how many watts are consumed, it’s hard to judge how energy efficient these blades are.

Update: HP has provided more information with regard to the server’s efficiency saying it ran in tests at 165 watts per server, and emphasizes that the servers are 60 % more efficient than stand alone boxes in part because they combine two servers into one shell, requiring one fan and power supply for double the compute power.

Fox Interactive Media is one of HP’s clients, so clearly there’s a market for HP’s brand of two-in-one blades, but HP will have to compete with existing hardware vendors such as Rackable and Silicon Metrics, who seem to be doing fine providing energy-efficient scalable hardware for Web 2.0 and cloud computing companies.