HP today introduces nine new models of servers and workstations running Intel's quad-core Xeon 5300 processor.

The HP launch completes the introduction of quad-core hardware from major computer and server manufacturers since Intel launched its new processor in September.

The vendor is introducing three new models each of its ProLiant rack servers, BladeSystem servers and HP Workstation computers running the upgrade from the dual-core platform to the quad-core Intel Xeon 5300 processor.

The HP announcements follow product launches over the last week from Dell Inc., IBM Corp. and other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), all plugging Intel Xeon 5300 quad-cores into the industry standard x86 two-socket configuration.

"This is the major buying area in the market, the two-socket configuration, so this is significant. This is really the bulk of the market," said John Enck, a Gartner analyst.

A server or workstation running quad-core processors in a two-socket configuration takes up less space, can be more energy-efficient and work faster than dual-core processors in a four-socket configuration, said Jean Bozman, an IDC analyst.

"There are certain workloads that will do pretty well with quad-core right off the bat," Bozman said.

Quad-core can handle high-performance computing tasks better than dual-core because it can better manage highly parallel workloads in which a lot of different tasks are happening separately, she said. Database work would also be easier because multiple components of those workloads could be spread across the cores.

The new processors also make it easier to virtualise the data centre, that is, run multiple software applications on the same physical server as though they were actually running each on their own virtual server, thus making better use of server capacity.

"This is a fairly nice performance upgrade for Intel for at least most workloads. But it’s not something that I would expect to radically change end user purchasing behaviour," said Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata. In order to buy, end users would want to be sure that the quad-core processor is matched by improved memory, a faster network connection and better storage to improve their data centre overall.

Intel rival, AMD is due to release its quad-core processors during the middle of 2007.