The Chip Race Is On Between Intel, IBM

UPDATED: Intel offers a new take on the enterprise processor market at its developer conference. Is the competition a two-horse race between IBM's Power5 and Intel's IA64 line-or more complicated?

SAN FRANCISCO—The enterprise processor contest is now a two-horse race between IBM and Intel Corp., Intels enterprise platforms chief said Tuesday.

In a briefing with reporters at the Intel Developer Forum here, Abhi Talwalkar, vice president of Intels Enterprise Platforms Group, in Santa Clara, Calif., said in the future only IBMs Power5 architecture and Intels family of processors will be battling for OEM sockets. Talwalkar also admitted in a question-and-answer session earlier in the day that Intels Itanium sales have not met "aggressive" internal sales forecasts.

Sun Microsystems Inc. isnt even a contender in the race, he said. "Most of you watching Sun will appreciate where Sun is going from a long-term standpoint," Talwalkar said, apparently referring to Suns collaboration with Fujitsu Ltd. on the future development of the SPARC processor.

/zimages/5/28571.gifCheck out "Sun, Fujitsu Light a SPARC."

However, competitors disputed Intels new division of the market. When asked about the Intel comments, a Sun Microsystems Inc. systems spokeswoman pointed to the companys continuing efforts with its 64-bit SPARC processor.

"According to analyst market share numbers, SPARC out shipped Itanium by over 10 times last quarter," said Sabrina Guttman. "Reality is that Intel is struggling to keep Itanium alive with no viable long-term roadmap and lackluster ISV support. Sun, on the other hand, has one of the strongest ecosystems in the industry and is firmly committed to delivering value to our customers through innovation with Solaris on SPARC."

While Intel has fared well in the low-end server segment, RISC architectures continue to dominate servers selling for more than $25,000, said Talwalkar, who added that legacy applications have tied IT administrators into supporting the so-called "legacy systems."

"Power5 is a very competitive platform to Itanium 2," he said, primarily because of its multicore architecture. Intel executives demonstrated a dual-core "Montecito" Itanium processor here on Tuesday, a processor Intel will launch next year.

/zimages/5/28571.gifFor more on Intels dual-core chip, click here.

Talwalkar also said Tuesday that the company has not been happy with Itanium sales, although he quickly qualified the statement. In a Q&A session, Talwalkar was asked if the Itanium should be considered a failure. Although he said it is not a failure, he added: "Are we meeting system-level goals for this year? No, not at the aggressive levels that we set."

The company, however, is satisfied with the "types" of customers that have chosen to buy the Itanium processor, Talwalkar said.

Editors Note: This story was updated to include comments from Sun Microsystem representatives.

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