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The Force is Now With HP

Fresh off a strong quarter server and storage sales, HP has secured a technology contract to prop up visual effects works for Lucasfilm.

Specific financial terms of the deal were not made public, though HP said the deal with the producer of the "Star Wars" films, is a multi-million-dollar contract spanning three years.

HP's Workstations Marketing Director, Jeff Wood, said the pact calls for the Palo Alto, Calif., company to provide between 1,000 and 1,500 high-performance workstations and storage to the high-profile film company.

Wood said Lucasfilm will use its new AMD Opteron-based xw9300 workstations, primarily for game development and special effects content creation for major films.

The executive said that, for production studios, Opteron architecture is actually superior to Intel because the embedded memory controller in the AMD chip reduces the latency of high-performance applications.

Lucasfilm previously used Opteron technology on machines from so-called "white-box," or non-brand-name vendors. Wood said the company switched to the xw9300 because it's fast and supports up to 16 gigabytes of main memory and dual PCI Express graphics cards.

This allows users to put two high-end graphics cards in one workstation, which is crucial for composite work and game development.

To back up the work, HP will also provide Lucasfilm its high-end StorageWorks xp12000 disk array, which boasts 35 terabytes of storage capacity.

Contracts between major IT vendors and film companies are nothing new. The proliferation of digital animation in children's films like "Shrek" and even arty films geared for adults such as "Sin City," creates new revenue opportunities for vendors of heavy duty systems.

To date, HP has enjoyed success with Hollywood animation studios DreamWorks and Pixar with its servers and workstations.

But Woods said the deal with Lucasfilm is special because it is the first time the companies have worked together. "They are our first major studio customer for visual effects and game development."

Wood confirmed the HP/Lucasfilm deal Lucasfilm will use the HP machines at its Presidio campus in San Francisco and its Singapore campus, which they will be building later this year.

HP has sparked quite a turnaround in its server and storage sales under the leadership of new CEO Mark Hurd. This time last year, the company announced that third-quarter server sales dipped 8 percent while storage revenues plummeted 15 percent.