Vendors Ramp Up Itanium Backing

Supporters look to accelerate adoption in the enterprise space.

Supporters of the Itanium architecture are looking to crank up backing for the Intel Corp. platform just as competing systems makers launch initiatives in the enterprise space.

In particular, Sun Microsystems Inc. earlier this month began rolling out its "Galaxy" line of enterprise systems based on Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s Opteron chip, and a week later the company began shipping servers armed with its own, more powerful UltraSPARC IV+ processor.

That RISC space is a key target for Itanium systems makers, and members of the new Itanium Solutions Alliance, which will be launched this week, say theyll be able to accelerate adoption of the platform through a number of initiatives scheduled to begin in November. Alliance members include Intel; OEMs such as Unisys Corp., Fujitsu Ltd. and Silicon Graphics Inc.; and software vendors such as Microsoft Corp., SAP AG and Red Hat Inc.

/zimages/1/28571.gifDell drops Itanium chip. Click here to read more.

"Whatever each of the companies was doing independently [with Itanium], we can bring together all our skills," said Mike Mitsch, director of alliance/systems integrators for another member, NEC Solutions America Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif.

The goal is to give ISVs, hardware makers and users a central place to learn about Itanium and find solutions based on the architecture, Mitsch said. Starting in November in Santa Clara, the alliance will host a series of "developer days," at which software makers can get information, training and help porting their applications to the platform. Developer days are also planned for Japan in December and for Germany in February.

The companies also have launched 19 solutions centers globally that will give developers access to Itanium experts, tools and compilers. In addition, by the end of the year, the alliance will launch a catalog listing all the applications, solutions and hardware available for Itanium.

/zimages/1/28571.gifRead more here about an Itanium update on the way.

The architecture has a checkered past and in recent years has been hamstrung by the rise of Opteron and the strength of Intels Xeon chips. However, Intel said it will continue to innovate—the first dual-core version, code-named Montecito, is due later this year—and that hardware and software support continues to grow. Shipments of Itanium systems reached 26,000 last year, up from 14,168 in 2003, according to analyst company Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn. Hewlett-Packard Co. is standardizing its high-end servers on Itanium, and a number of second-tier OEMs are using the chip. However, the chip has gotten lukewarm support from IBM, and Dell Inc. this month said it will no longer ship Itanium systems.

Bobby Jefferson, director of IT at Hillco Ltd., said he is disappointed by Dells move—and what Jefferson sees as Intels inability to properly push Itanium. Hillco runs back-end applications on Dell Itanium servers. Jefferson said he is looking at systems running dual-core Xeons as possible replacements but also is considering vendors other than Dell and will evaluate Opteron.

Hillco was an early adopter of Itanium, and Jefferson, in Kinston, N.C., said the systems gave him good performance without heat or power problems. However, he said, Intel always seemed reluctant to promote the architecture. "Ive always felt that it was a great platform but that Intel just never really got going after it," he said. "It never seemed like a full-fledged push."

Embracing Itanium

The new alliance has a three-pronged strategy

* Developer days Three scheduled between November and February

* Solution centers Starting with 19 globally

* Solutions catalog List of Itanium offerings launching by the end of the year

/zimages/1/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.