The ongoing battle over 64-bit computer technology--who's best: Intel or AMD?--is ratcheting up a notch, with reports that Hewlett-Packard will soon unveil a ProLiant machine or machines sporting Advanced Micro Device's Opteron inside. To date, HP has relied exclusively on Intel processors for its ProLiant family. In a press release, HP said it "is currently assessing our options in this area," but stopped short of saying it planned to introduce a ProLiant server based on the Opteron. HP said it remains committed to its Itanium family of processors, which it developed with Intel over the past decade.
"There's a case to be made for outfitting certain future low-end ProLiants with Opteron processors for customers who want this technology," said HP analyst Terry Shannon. "But with over eight million IA-32 ProLiant systems sold to date, any purported effort HP makes to deliver ProLiants based on alternative x86 technology would target specialized applications that are amenable to Opteron's approach to 64-bitness." Shannon, author of the newsletter "Shannon Knows HPC," said he feels certain AMD 64-bit processors won't encroach on HP's higher reaches of computing, where Itanium 64-bit processors dwell.
Shannon--noting that many chat rooms and some published reports are predicting the demise of the Itanium--said the Opteron could not displace the Intel processor. "HP has just spend a fortune and many years porting to the Itanium," he said. "There's no way they'd do it all over again for another processor. I can guarantee you that you'll never see an HP Superdome made up of Opteron processors."
"Both Intel and HP have made massive investments in Itanium, and neither firm is likely to write off these investments," Shannon said. "Itanium is gaining mind share, and HP's upcoming Integrity campaign is designed to increase mind share as well as market share and ISV buy-in."
That said, Shannon added that the Opteron could be attractive to some users because of its ability to efficiently handle 64-bit Windows, 64-bit SQL Server applications, and a few other computing chores. IBM has been using the Opteron in its eServer line; Sun Microsystems, too, has announced plans to use the Opteron. HP uses AMD's Athlon 64-bit processor in some of its PCs.