HP will double the number of Itanium 2 processors it can support from next month with the release of a new multi-processor daughtercard for its Integrity servers.

The mx2 dual-processor module, codenamed Hondo, will be compatible with existing "Madison" Itanium processor sockets, so customers will be able to slide the two-processor module into slots now used for a single processor, HP said. The mx2 will contain 32MB of L4 cache and will come in a variety of processor configurations.

Models of HP's Integrity servers that currently contain four or more processors will ship with the module beginning next month, said Mark Hudson, VP of marketing with HP's enterprise storage servers. "With this new processor board, Integrity will now go up to a 128-way system," he said.

The largest Integrity server, called Superdome, can currently contain up to 64 processors. Pricing for Superdome with the mx2 modules (and so doubling to 128 processors), will start at $309,000.

Though IBM and Dell also sell Itanium systems, HP is the only major vendor to provide this kind of dual-processor module for Itanium, said Nathan Brookwood an analyst with Insight64. However, when Intel begins shipping its dual-core Itanium processor, code-named Montecito, in 2005, users will have an alternative to the mx2. "This is definitely a stop-gap measure until you get Montecito, but you don't get Montecito for another 13 months," he said. "At least for now, this gives HP a way of getting to 128 processors."

HP's Hudson confirmed that position: "We felt it was important to be able to provide our customers with this capability. We could not afford to wait until Montecito comes out."

The mx2 module will be available for the Integrity rx4640, rx7620, and rx8620 servers starting in June. Pricing will start at $16,700, $56,000, and $133,000, (£9,300; £31,100; £73,900) respectively. Superdome support will follow in July, HP said. The two-processor module will cost approximately twice as much as a single Itanium processor, HP said.

The company has no plans to support mx2 with its Integrity rx1600 or rx2600, or rx5670 servers.