I heard a rumour on Friday that HP has been chosen by another animated movie studio to provide the blade servers to render an upcoming movie. To recount the movies that have used / are using HP blades:

So, as I look at the vast number of movies that have chosen HP for their blade server technology, I have to wonder WHY?  HP does have some advantages in the blade marketplace, like having market share, but when you review HP with Dell, you would be surprised as to how similar the offerings are:

When you compare the two offerings, HP wins in a few categories, like the ability to have up to 32 CPUs in a single blade chassis – a valuable feature for rendering accomplished with the HP BL2x220c blade servers.  However, Dell also shines in areas, too.  Look at their ability to run 512GB of memory on a 2 CPU server using FlexMem Bridge technology.   From a pure technology comparison (taking out the management and I/O of the equation), I see Dell offering very similar product offerings as HP and I have to wonder why Dell has not been able to get any movie companies to use Dell blades.  Perhaps it’s not a focus of Dell marketing.  Perhaps it is because HP has a  history of movie processing on HP workstations.   Perhaps movie companies need 32 CPUs in a chassis.  I don’t know.  I welcome any comments from Dell or HP, but I’d also like to know, what do you think?  Let me know in the comments below.

  • AnthonyP

    I would more likely say, its about the amount of money HP wants to give away to get the deal & the bragging rights.

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  • niksimpson

    When I was working at Intergraph in the late 90s we got a lot of movie studio and production business on workstations and that also helped a lot with servers, so I would guess the workstation biz is helping them. Also, as you point out they can double the CPU density in the same footprint and for rendering that's a huge advantage

  • niksimpson

    When I was working at Intergraph in the late 90s we got a lot of movie studio and production business on workstations and that also helped a lot with servers, so I would guess the workstation biz is helping them. Also, as you point out they can double the CPU density in the same footprint and for rendering that's a huge advantage

  • James

    First, I'm not sure you have all of the features right in the table… Doesn't HP offer internal USB on every blade as well as dongle USB access? Also, at least on the BL 685c G6, in addition to the internal USB, there is an SD slot. Thus, the only feature gap seems to be due simply to HP not having announced a Nehalem EX blade yet. However, I think you answered your question when you talked about the ability to support 32 servers in a single chassis. My guess is that large rendering farms like the ones that are used for making these films are looking for this kind of density and not some of the other features that you highlight.

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  • http://BladesMadeSimple.com/ Kevin Houston

    I'm not sure #hp has more marketing dollars than #dell when it comes to getting animated movies to use their gear. Dell seems to be a pretty profitable organization. I do see more Dell product placement on TV and movies, but I've not heard anything about their products being used to produce movies. Thanks for the comments and for stopping by!

  • http://BladesMadeSimple.com/ Kevin Houston

    Yes, the #hp blade servers DO have internal usb ports. I've updated my chart in the post to reflect this. Also, I did note that both #dell and hp have SD slots, however only Dell offers redundant SD slots to prevent a single point of failure (on the cards at least.) Thanks for the comments, and thanks for reading!

  • http://BladesMadeSimple.com/ Kevin Houston

    I agree, #hp has owned the movie rendering business with their workstation lines. I wonder when movie studios will start using HP Blade Workstations? Thanks for the comments, and for reading!

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  • http://www.hp.com/go/bladeblog Daniel Bowers

    I think James hits it close: your list misses some key factors for the visual effects IT crowd. The bullets are probably too focused on the server hardware. Outfits like Weta Digital had to meet power & cooling requirements, compatibility with their storage architecture, management stacks, Linux distributions, and a bunch of other stuff. They probably also wanted to see track records with their industry-specific s/w like Renderman, Mental Ray, etc.

    In terms of the specs on your chart, the ones that address density of 2-processor nodes are probably the most important. Cluster economics lead to the cheaper 2P processors, and “CG” software tends to be more compute-constrained than memory-constrained, so the high-CPU-count, moderate-DIMM-count BL2x220c hits a sweet spot. So the “2 servers on 1 blade” is probably the big difference on your chart.

    A more real-world metric than “CPUs per enclosure” would be “CPUs per rack”, where “rack” has both a physical limit (e.g. 42U) and a density limit on power, cooling, and network fabrics.

    Disclaimer: I work for HP. Plus, “Mad Max 4″ frightens me a bit.

  • jasontreu

    Hi Kevin,
    Weta uses HP workstation blades.

    Here are some others too:
    http://www.hp.com/united-states/campaigns/z-wor
    http://www.eweek.com/c/a/IT-Infrastructure/HP-S
    http://h20435.www2.hp.com/t5/Voodoo-Blog/bg-p/h

    Jason Treu
    Disclaimer: work for HP

  • http://BladesMadeSimple.com/ Kevin Houston

    Jason – thanks for the #hp links to workstation blades. Be looking for a post on this soon. Thanks for reading!

  • http://BladesMadeSimple.com/ Kevin Houston

    Great input on why movie studios like #hp blades. I can see the need for LOTS of CPU power. As always, thanks for your comments!

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  • Rafal

    I see that is a little mistake due to wrong number of maximum CPUs in Full Chassis, Dell has 16 dualsockets blades half hight, so in one chassis you have 32CPUs…

  • http://BladesMadeSimple.com/ Kevin Houston

    Oops – meant to have that say #dell has 32 CPUs in a full chassis while #hp has #64 CPUs in a full chassis. Thanks for catching that. I'll make an edit on the file as soon as I find the original. Thanks for reading!

  • Yngdiego

    Maybe you should update your table now that HP has made some major blade server announcements. I think HP would get check marks in all areas except for the 'full access to memory on a 7500 with 2 CPUs.'

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