In addition, there will be more than 1,000 applications supporting Itanium by the end of the year, and 1,500 by the middle of 2004, she said. The development of the software ecosystem around the architecture will be key to the adoption of Itanium, particularly as it tries to take business away from the more established RISC-based systems, such as those sold by Sun Microsystems Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif., and Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM. Graff said that represents 10 percentor about 500,000 systemsof the total server market. OEMs also are beginning to roll out more Itanium-based systems. Hewlett-Packard Co., which co-developed Itanium and is standardizing its high-end 64-bit server line on the chip, earlier this month introduced three new systems in its Itanium-based Integrity linea four-way, an eight-way and a 16-way systemthat complement the companys 64-way Superdome. This week, IBM unveiled its eServer xSeries 455 Itanium system, which can scale from four to 16 processors.Itanium is facing its stiffest challenge from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and its 64-bit Opteron processor. Officials with the Sunnyvale, Calif., company say that a key differentiator is that Opteron is built on the x86 architecture, and can run 32-bit and 64-bit applications, giving enterprises an easier migration path to 64-bit computing. Read "AMD Details its Processor Roadmap." With Madison, Intel introduced the IA-32 Execution Layer, designed to enable Itanium to also run 32-bit applications, but at the relative performance of a Pentium 4 chip. The technology hit a snag earlier this month when Microsoft pushed back to the second half of 2004 the release of a software update that would have included the emulation layer, which would have improved the performance of 32-bit Windows applications on Itanium-powered systems. Graff said the emulation layer software is ready to go, and that Intel officials now are exploring other options for getting it onto the market. They would have preferred to ship it out with operating systemsit was scheduled to be released with the launch of Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1but dont want to wait until the second half of next year. Alternatives include having Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., shipping the software separately or having the OEMs ship it with their systems. Officials hope to have a plan in place by next month, she said. Discuss This in the eWEEK Forum
In addition, other major vendors, including Dell Inc., NEC Corp., Unisys Corp. and SGI, offer Itanium systems of various sizes, as do several smaller systems makers.