Itanium And Integrity--Who Are Intel And HP Trying To Convince? - InformationWeek

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Itanium And Integrity--Who Are Intel And HP Trying To Convince?

Itanium and Integrity won't go down from a lack of effort or commitment from its two creators and largest proponents, Intel and Hewlett-Packard. After Thursday's Webcast conference, one lingering impression was that the two companies may be trying as hard to convince themselves as the public that they haven't wasted billions of dollars in what has now become a decades-long effort to establish a new processor architecture.

Itanium and Integrity won't go down from a lack of effort or commitment from its two creators and largest proponents, Intel and Hewlett-Packard. After Thursday's Webcast conference, one lingering impression was that the two companies may be trying as hard to convince themselves as the public that they haven't wasted billions of dollars in what has now become a decades-long effort to establish a new processor architecture.To say that Intel and HP have been using hard sales tactics to promote the Itanium processor architecture and HP's Integrity line of servers using those processors would be an understatement. Late last year, an industry consortium called the Itanium Solutions Alliance was formed, with Intel, HP, and a larger group of second and third-tier server makers pledging to support advancement of the architecture. In January, the Alliance members pledged $10 billion over the next four years to support Itanium. And on Thursday Oracle announced that its leading software will be ported to run on HP Integrity servers running HP-UX 11i.

Thursday's Webcast included three of the biggest executives in the technology industry: Paul Otellini, president and CEO of Intel; Mark Hurd, president and CEO of HP; and Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle. During the hour-long conference, however, Oracle and its software pledge seemed almost an afterthought. Ellison called in from Japan to provide a brief statement of support for Itanium and Integrity.

The hour-long Webcast was filled with Otellini and Hurd again making the case for Itanium--the same case that's been presented repeatedly over the past year since Dell and IBM withdrew support for Itanium-based servers. Otellini reiterated that the market for high-end servers that has traditionally been served by IBM's Power-based servers and Sun Microsystems' Sparc-based servers totals $28 billion annually, which is $8 billion more than the volume x86-based server market.

Adoption of Itanium-based systems by the 100 largest companies in the world has grown from 40% a year ago to 50% currently, and Intel expects that to grow to 70% by the end of the year, Otellini says. In the first five years Itanium has been on the market, the processor architecture has seen a higher acceptance rate than either Sparc or Power at the same point in their infancy.

Hurd says HP will invest $1 billion a year for the next five years in R&D to support its Integrity server line. That HP investment is part of the $10 billion pledge previously announced by the Itanium Alliance. Assuming that Intel is likely to be investing just as much or more than HP in this project, it's clear that the vast majority of financial support is still coming from only Intel and HP.

The only problem with the defense of Itanium/Integrity laid out on Thursday is that we've heard this all before. Competitors like IBM say Itanium-based server sales have been flat for the past two years, and that HP accounts for 80% of all volume.

A big demarcation point for Itanium and Integrity will come later this year when the delayed Montecito version of Itanium is introduced by Intel. Montecito will be the first dual-core Itanium, which Intel says will provide significantly higher levels of performance than previously available from the architecture.

Also in question is HP and Intel's insistence on calling Itanium an "industry-standard" architecture. An architecture that's supplied by only one chip vendor and that's offered by only one of the four largest servers vendors seems little more akin to the supposed proprietary Power and Sparc processors than the x86 processor that's available from two vendors and supported by virtually every server maker in the world.

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