HP has brought out a timely update of its Quickblades which, when they were launched early in 2002, were among the first blade servers to be delivered. The systems will have more powerful processors and the multi-processor blade chassis will have Gigabit Ethernet backplanes.

HP’s blades were launched with 700MHz Pentium 3 M processors, and have already been upgraded twice, reaching 900MHz at the beginning of this year. The new versions have processors extending from 1GHz to 3GHz.

The single-processor BL10e entry level blade now runs a 1GHz low-voltage Pentium M chip with a 400MHz front side bus. Its price starts at $1759 US, for one with 40Gbyte of hard disk, 512Mbyte of memory. It has two 10/100M Ethernet ports and the chassis still runs 10/100M Ethernet.

To introduce Gigabit Ethernet backplanes, HP has given the BP20p two-way blades three Gigabit ports as well as one 10/100 port. The BL20p can go up to two 3.06 GHz Xeon DP processors (with a 533 MHz front side bus) as well as 1Gbyte of memory. A version with no hard drives costs $5499.

The four-way BL40p blade now has five Gigabit ports and the processor has been upgraded to 2.8-GHz or 2.0-GHz Xeon MP processors. A BL40P with one 2.0 GHz processor and 512 Mbyte of memory costs $8,199; with two 2.8GHz processors and a Gig, it costs $17,229.

HP has gone to Nortel for help giving the two-way BL20p and four-way BL40p blade systems the option of Gigabit Ethernet. Each chassis will need two of the Nortel 24-port Gigabit switches to connect the blades to each other and link to the user’s network. There is no pricing revealed yet for the ProLiant BL GbE2 switches, which will be availble in September. Beyond this, HP has promised a 10Gigabit Ethernet switch in 2005.

HP claims to have sold around 30,000 BL blade servers. It supports Windows 2000 and Windows 2003, as well as Red Hat and the UnitedLinux joint effort between SuSE, TurboLinux and Connectiva.