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Patience Is A Virtue

Computing years are kind of like dog years: Each one seems to correspond to something like seven actual human years when you consider the pace of development throughout nearly any platform.
Given that Intel introduced the Itanium in 2001, then, one might think that the architecture should be considered ancient; especially after the slow start that Itanium sales got, a lot of companies might have punted on the chip long since.

But Intel has stayed the course, and perhaps the results are showing up now. The company reports that Itanium 2 shipments grew 170 percent year-to-year in the first quarter, a sign of a couple of factors -- that many of you are spending on servers out there, and that many of those servers are Itanium 2-based. Those gains come in the face of a fair amount of resistance from existing platforms such as IBM's Power as well as manufacturers such as Sun that have opted to go in other directions such as AMD's competing Opteron. And they're likely to continue, given the trend toward increasing adoption of 64-bit server platforms and Intel's marketing muscle and ready cash.

A few fortunes are dependent on that continued growth. One, of course, is Intel's own prospects. AMD keeps nudging its way up the market share ladder, and servers are a key component of its strategy; we can expect pretty constant competition for your IT server budgets. Another is Hewlett-Packard, which continues to migrate much of its server line away from its own dying RISC offerings and toward the Itanium 2. With the remaking of HP continuing apace, boosting its server share would be a welcome revenue jolt that would give new CEO Mark Hurd more time to re-engineer the rest of his company. I'm reminded of how TV networks cashed in on some of the medium's most classic shows -- Seinfeld, The X-Files, The Dick Van Dyke Show -- only after letting them mature from slow starts. The Itanium may be much the same; Intel stuck with it, and the payoff looks like it's finally here.