With Intels Xeon and AMDs Opteron continuing to grow in scalability and performance with each new version, is Gelsinger worried about Itanium becoming even more marginalized? "Well, we rely on the same data most people use, and we see the same picture: Theres a $50 billion server market out there, and we see Itanium growing at about 10 percent per year. Were seeing our systems revenues grow at about a 25 percent-plus rate. Xeon is really a different market segment.Too rosy a picture? Intel may be painting too rosy a picture inside the Itanium frame, said analyst Charles King of Pund-IT Research, in Hayward, Calif. "Theyre trying to put a good face on what really has been a disappointment for them," King told eWEEK. "When it was originally pitched, Itanium was to become the industry standard 64-bit chip. It hasnt become that. As it is now, HP uses 80 to 90 percent of all Itanium chips in its servers; clearly, theyre the ones who have the most to gain or lose with the success or failure of the chip. Most of the other players [NEC, Fujitsu, et al.] are developing other servers using other processors." Good system revenue numbers for Intel are also good news for HP, King said. "Without Itanium, HP really has no enterprise servers," King said. The market numbers show that about 8,000 to 9,000 Itanium-based servers are sold each quarter by all manufacturers, he said. "Thats really a fairly small return for Intel, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars on R&D for Itanium," he said. For Intel to really succeed with these new chips, King said, it will need to bring ISVs into the fold. "This has been a tough sell for Intel all along," King said. "For an ISV to make the switch over to a completely new architecture like Itanium from RISC-based Power and SPARC chips, it requires them to do an awful lot of extra work to get them configured. For example, some apps run in emulation on Itanium, and thats not good enough for some enterprise-level requirements." This is probably a good announcement for existing Itanium users, King said, "but Im not seeing anything here that will turn Itanium around [dramatically] in the marketplace. I see a slow, gradual market increase for a long while downstream." What will be different this time? Sageza Group analyst Ryder said that "Itanium has, for all objective criteriaexcept those put forth by Intel and perhaps HPhas been a failure with respect to its initial mission." "As for its redefined mission of super-high-end computing, it has been more successful than for general-purpose computing. However, its sales are low, and it is supported by few system vendors. With the release of Montecito, Intel may be able to apply some marketing muscle; however, one does have to ask: If Itanium wasnt all that appealing before, why would it be different this time?" Ryder said he had a "pet peeve" regarding Intels positioning of Itanium as an industry standard-type processor. "Itanium by no objective criteria can be called an industry standard, as can x86-based chips," he said. "Itanium is a proprietary technology that is controlled by a single company and it does not have any de facto standard trappings such as widespread deployment throughout the marketplace. "It also does not have the blessing of any independent standards committee. Hence, it is an Intel standard (and an HP one for that matter), but by no means is it an industry standard processor." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.
"Were seeing HP move more of their servers to Itanium, NEC and other companies are moving their RISC-based proprietary machines to Itanium, and were gaining revenue against Sun and IBM. Overall, this is a big market going into the future for a long time," Gelsinger said.