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HP's 64-bit Milestone: Itanium Passes The Alpha

Hewlett-Packard's two major 64-bit processor families running the OpenVMS operating system -- the aging Alpha and the still-emerging Itanium -- have reached "the crossover point" in which the Itanium now surpasses the Alpha in most performance testing, according to a presentation given at HP World.

Terry Shannon, a consultant and publisher of the Shannon Knows High Performance Computing newsletter, predicted that Itanium sales and usage will pick up now in the wake of successful portage of OpenVMS to the Itanium processor family (IPF.) Shannon, who has written a textbook on VMS, said in an interview Friday that HP is currently "putting the finishing touches on OpenVMS V8.2, the first commercial VMS/IPF release."

HP is gradually phasing out the Alpha family and moving current Alpha users gradually over to its Itanium family -- a procedure that to date has been relatively slow. Shannon said improvements to OpenVMS for the IPF will hasten the migration.

HP's OpenVMS engineering performance team is employing a multi-pronged approach to beefing up the operating system concentrating on CPU, memory, and I/O to improve performance. Noting that HP hasn't yet officially released any specific comparisons between Alpha and IPF, he said he has taken some tests from HP and carried out some himself to determine that the crossover is now underway. Shannon said while IPF now surpasses the Alpha in most measurements, the old family still prevails in a few instances, most notably in memory latency and in some server applications.

"The performance crossover point -- the point at which IPF will meet, and begin to exceed by a widening margin, the performance of Alpha -- is expected to occur in the EV7z/Madison9M timeframe," Shannon said referring to the final iteration of the Alpha family (EV7z) and a new Itanium configuration (Madison9M.)

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