Intel Remains Committed To Itanium

IBM and Dell haven't been strong on Itanium, but Intel says demand from other server makers has spurred Itanium's growth.

March 2, 2005

3 Min Read
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Despite disinterest by two of the top four major server manufacturers, Intel executives at its Developer Forum this week in San Francisco reiterated the company's commitment to its high-end Itanium processor architecture.

IBM has never been a strong supporter of Itanium, and Itanium wasn't a particularly good fit for the Dell portfolio, acknowledges Pat Gelsinger, senior VP of Intel's digital enterprise group. Strong demand by server original equipment manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard, Unisys, NEC, Silicon Graphics, and Fujitsu, however, will help secure Itanium's place as the choice for RISC replacement in the years ahead, he says.

"It's not surprising that IBM is most interested in pursuing its own Power architecture in market and Dell plays primarily in the volume [x86] space," Gelsinger says. "Where [Itanium] is relevant is in the RISC replacement market, where we believe it is a long-term winner."

Intel's Itanium revenue grew more than 300% from 2003 to 2004, and is being used in server systems in 40 of the top 100 global companies, according to the company. There also have been more than 2,800 third-party applications written to run on Itanium.

IBM has reluctantly supported Itanium in the past, preferring to steer customers to its own RISC-based Power architecture, and Gelsinger says that it's doubtful IBM will continue to offer Itanium-based systems.As for Dell, its Itanium product line "is not a growing market. We think that Xeon with 64-bit extensions can scale in the future to meet the needs of that (existing Itanium) customer base," says Neil Hand, VP of worldwide enterprise marketing for Dell.

Last month, Hewlett-Packard, which helped develop the Itanium architecture, confirmed its continued support for Itanium as a replacement for its RISC-based product lines the company is phasing out over the next few years.

HP said it would invest $3 billion during the next three years to improve system-level design, software, and services to support its Itanium-based Integrity server line. Integrity offerings, including serves, storage, software, and services, have surpassed $1 billion in revenue, according to HP. About 25% of HP's Business Critical Server unit revenue in 2004 was derived from Integrity systems, and HP believes that will grow to 50% by the end this year and 70% by the end of 2006.

IBM's lack of dedication to Itanium is no surprise, says Mark Feverston, director of enterprise server marketing for Unisys. "IBM never really supported Itanium," he says. "They didn't want a competitor to their own Power architecture. They didn't really promote Itanium."

Unisys has seen its Itanium-based revenue growing each quarter, says Feverston, and he believes it will remain a strong offering for customers who have historically used RISC systems but are now seeking to migrate to Windows or Linux operating environments.At IDF, Gelsinger laid out a road map for Itanium that includes a move to a dual-core platform later this year. Future Itanium offerings will include a platform codenamed Richford that will include two Itanium processors scheduled for 2007, followed by the next generation Itanium, code-named Poulson.

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