For years, Intel has enhanced the Xeon processors by adding reliability features. With enhancements made in the last year, the question is once again being asked, do x86 servers provide the same mission-critical capabilities as the Itanium-based Integrity servers running HP-UX, OpenVMS or the Integrity NonStop systems. The simple answer is NO. The Integrity environment is a bullet-proof mission-critical environment that builds in resiliency at the processor, firmware, server, and operating environment---for a complete mission-critical system.
The Itanium processor continues to deliver higher levels of reliability even though Xeon continues to add additional reliability features with every release. Not only has Itanium had many of the “new” resiliency features now found in Xeon such as Double Device Data Correction (DDDC) for years, but these features have been hardened for multiple generations into the Integrity hardware, firmware and HP-UX operating system. Itanium has a 3rd generation MCA architecture and advanced error containment and compared to other architectures supports both consumed and unconsumed errors. The important differentiator is that the hardware, firmware and operating system need to support the advanced resiliency features. So if the processor supports hot-swap memory, but the system (hardware, firmware and OS) don't support the feature the benefit is unrealized.
The Itanium processor has and will continue to add new resiliency features to meet the ever greater demands of the mission-critical market. Intel recently disclosed additional details about the upcoming Itanium Poulson processor and outlined expanded resiliency features that included: error prevention, end to end error correction and improved firmware error handling.
The key point to remember when talking about mission-critical systems is that it is about more than the processor, it is in fact about the total system and what you do to build resiliency in across the system. What differentiates our Integrity product line from other options in the market is not just the Itanium processor, but the hardware, the firmware and the HP-UX operating system that provide advance resiliency. Features such as:
- Superdome Crossbar Fabric with no single points of failure in the datapath
- Superdome Analysis Engine providing the intelligence to keep the system running when errors occur that would otherwise take the system down.
- Electrically isolated hard partitions crucial for mission-critical virtualization
So yes, the Xeon processor continues to add new resiliency features but Xeon processors don’t compare to the Itanium-based HP Integrity systems which have had these features for multiple generations and they have been hardened into the Integrity hardware, firmware and HP-UX operating system. .
Director, HP BCS Hardware Planning and Marketing