For Hewlett-Packard, the long-awaited launch of Intels "Montecito" chip will mean finally being able to pair its new chip set technology with the first dual-core Itanium 2 processor.
The result will be greater performance, availability and cost efficiency for HPs largest customers.
"Customers will effectively be able to get the work of two copies of … software for the price of one," said Brian Cox, worldwide director of server marketing for HPs Business Critical Systems group. "And youre going to see a dramatic jump in performance."
Intel is hosting an event July 18 in San Francisco to announce the official launch of the chip, which will be called the Itanium 2 9000 Series. HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., will be on hand, as will other systems makers—including Fujitsu and Unisys—that have opted for the controversial architecture as the processor for their high-end platforms.
"The new dual-core Itanium 2 processor helps Unisys create server solutions superior to proprietary Unix/RISC offerings," said Mark Feverston, vice president of enterprise servers for the Blue Bell, Pa., company. "Key factors are the dual-core Itanium 2s enhanced support for virtualization and additional performance, which Unisys has engineered into the ES7000 line, along with integrated system management, since the beginning. This enhanced support will make it easier for Unisys customers to consolidate application workloads onto a smaller number of servers and reduce associated power costs and system management overhead."
Unisys will put the Montecito chips into its current ES7000/one server, as well as future systems within that server family, Feverston said.
The 9000 Series—which was set for release in early 2006 but delayed in October 2005 by Intel because of quality concerns—brings several key enhancements to an architecture that has been trying to find its footing since it was first introduced 10 years ago. Not only is Montecito the first dual-core Itanium chip, it also features Intels on-chip Virtualization Technology. The chip contains 1.7 billion transistors, offers 24MB of cache—triple the current amount—and consumes 104 watts, less than the 130-watt envelope of the current single-core "Madison" chip.
Montecito also comes with Intels Cache Safe technology. The processor can detect when errors are occurring within the cache, and it can isolate the errors and write them out to protect the rest of the cache from exposure, said David Myron, Itanium product line manager for Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif.
Such high-end features, combined with the ability to run 10 different operating systems—including variants of Unix, Linux and Windows—give RISC and mainframe customers "unmatched freedom of choice," Myron said.
Montecito comes at an important time for Intel and its Itanium plans. The chip that Intel once said would replace most other processors—including x86 technology—now is more narrowly focused as a high-end and RISC-replacement architecture. In that space, Itanium faces a number of competitors, including not only its own x86 Xeon processors, but also the Opteron family of chips from rival Advanced Micro Devices.
At the same time, both Sun Microsystems and IBM are growing their own RISC platforms—SPARC and Power, respectively. Sun, also of Santa Clara, is developing two new SPARC families—Niagara and Rock—while working with Fujitsu in creating another SPARC line, the Advanced Product Line, due later this year. IBM is outfitting systems with Power5+, and it is working on Power6 and Power7.
In addition, outside of HP, there is no support for Itanium among the top-tier systems makers. Both Dell and IBM have backed away from it, and Sun has opted for Opteron instead.
However, proponents say that there finally is steady momentum behind Itanium, such as a growing number—now up to 8,000—of applications ported to the platform, $10 billion in money dedicated to the architecture from the Itanium Solutions Alliance, a group of vendors supporting Itanium and figures from analyst company IDC that show a $6.6 billion Itanium market by 2010.
HPs Cox said his company has seen 93 percent revenue growth year-over-year of its Itanium business in the second quarter of 2006, and $1.6 billion in Itanium solution sales—servers, software and services—in 2005.
The company, which is standardizing its high-end servers on Itanium, is looking to combine its own technology with the 9000 Series to give customers a cost-effective alternative to mainframes and proprietary RISC platforms, he said. Within the next few months, HP will roll out a number of announcements of Itanium-based Integrity systems powered by Montecito. HP currently is in the process of validating Montecito on its Integrity platform, Cox said.