Intel reportedly will release the next-generation Itanium chip later this year, and already is working on the model that will come after that.
Diane Bryant, vice president and general manager of Intel's Datacenter and Connected Systems Group, told Computerworld Sept. 11 during an interview at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, that the giant chip maker was preparing to launch "Poulson," the next generation of its controversial high-end Itanium chip, by the end of 2012, and is working on the follow-up chip to Poulson, dubbed "Kittson."
Bryant's comments come after a year of speculation about the future of the Itanium platform and the high-profile legal battle between Oracle and Hewlett-Packard over Itanium's viability. Oracle executives in March 2011 said they would no longer develop their various enterprise applications for the Itanium platform, saying they believed Intel would soon stop developing Itanium in favor of its x86-based Xeon server chips.
HP and Intel disputed Oracle's claim, saying new versions of Itanium would continue to roll out at least through the end of the decade. HP by far is the largest user of Itanium, having standardized its high-end server lines-including the Integrity Superdomes and NonStop systems-on Itanium.
Bryant said Intel plans to continue developing Itanium as an alternative to such platforms as IBM's Power chips and Oracle's SPARC processors. It also makes financial sense, she said-while Itanium is found in only 3 percent of server units shipped, it comprises almost 25 percent of server revenue, she said.
"It continues to be a rather lucrative market," Bryant told Computerworld. "For those customers that run Unix, we want to continue to have a solution."
Itanium is aimed at high-end data center workloads. Poulson will replace the current Itanium 9300 "Tukwila" chips, which were released in 2009. Intel officials have said that Poulson will offer a new architecture that will be the basis for the chip for several years to come, and that the processor will offer greater performance, energy efficiency and management capabilities than the Tukwila lineup.
Poulson also will represent the next step in Intel's efforts to bring Itanium and Xeon onto a common platform. They already share some RAS (reliability, availability, scalability) features, and Bryant told The Register Website that the company is still working to develop a common socket for the two processor families. She declined to say which generations of Itanium and Xeon will offer that common socket.
When Oracle executives last year said they were withdrawing support for Itanium-something that Microsoft and Red Hat already have done with their operating systems-they noted that unnamed Intel engineers said the chip maker was planning to end development of Itanium now that the Xeon processors can handle many high-end workloads. HP sued, saying Oracle's decision violated an agreement between the two vendors to continue supporting technology used by their 140,000-plus joint customers. Oracle countersued, saying HP was not being up-front with customers or Oracle about Itanium's future.
After several weeks of testimony, a California judge ruled that Oracle was violating an agreement with HP, and ordered Oracle to continue porting future versions of its software, including its popular database applications, to the Itanium platform. Oracle executives earlier this month said they will obey the order.
The next step in the case is a jury trial to determine what damages Oracle will have to pay HP. That trial is scheduled to start in February 2013.