64-Bit Computing Options on the Rise? - Page 2

Scott McLaughlin, a spokesman for Intel, said Otellinis comments reflect what the company has been saying for several months, that it will consider building the 64-bit extensions into its 32-bit chips—similar to Opteron and AMDs Athlon64 desktop chips—when the software becomes available. Microsoft Corp. currently offers a version of its Windows platform for Itanium, but wont come out with a version for 64-bit extensions until the second half of the year. McLaughlin said Intel has not set a timetable when adding the extensions to its Xeon or Pentium chips.

Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., has long been rumored to be developing such extensions, but reportedly have not commented on it to protect Itanium sales.

But McLaughlin said that Intel would not see 64-bit-enabled 32-bit chips posing much of a risk to Itaniums, which are more targeted to high-end systems, which he said account for 12 percent of the market but almost half of the server revenues. Itanium competes more with RISC-based chips such as IBMs Power and Sun Microsystems Inc.s SPARC processors, he said.

Pentiums or Xeons with 64-bit extensions would compete more with AMDs Opteron or Athlon64 processors, and would not be able to offer some of the features that Itanium includes, such as error recovery on data bus, which allows a system to recover when data packets are lost, or machine check architecture, designed to ensure that systems are safe and running, McLaughlin said.

Brookwood said Intel executives need to be careful in how they position such chips because they still have an Itanium architecture that theyve sunk billions of dollars in developing and that is now finally gaining some traction in the industry.

In its statement, HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., acknowledged that there is "customer demand for support from a trusted vendor for x86 extensions technology in certain vertical segments where specific price/performance needs exist. HP is currently assessing our options in this area." However, they said their strategy is still based on the Itanium and x86 architectures.

The officials declined to elaborate.

HP helped Intel develop Itanium, and has a program to standardize its high-end servers on the chip. Jim Garden, an analyst with Technology Business Research Inc., in Hampton, N.H., said such a move by HP would be damaging to Itanium sales, particularly given the growing traction of Opteron in the industry.

"It would be a big, big move for HP and a big slap in the face for Intel," Garden said.

Other analysts thought the move could make sense. Gordon Haff, with Illuminata Inc., said that Opteron and Itanium play in different parts of the space—Opteron in the low-end, 32-bit arena, and Itanium in the higher-end, in systems such as HPs 64-way Superdome.

"This may be a type of thing where HP just saw customer demand and may really have been pushed by customer demand," said Haff, in Nashua, N.H.

Charles King, research director for the Sageza Group Inc., agreed.

"In a way its surprising, and it a way it isnt," said King, in Mountain View, Calif. "HP, in its partnership with Intel, has been the biggest booster of Itanium. … At the same time, HPs enterprise products group has been having problems over the past couple of years, and they need to find sales where they can find them.

"If HPs customers want an Opteron server, and HP doesnt have an Opteron server, theyll go somewhere else, and thats not a door [HP officials] want to open."