Dell is stopping sales of its servers powered by Intel Corp.s 64-bit Itanium 2 server, apparently choosing instead to focus on its line of Xeon- and Pentium-based systems.
A Dell spokesman said the company decided to drop the Itanium systems in order to focus solely on its vision of the "scale-out" data center, where multiple Intel Xeon processor-based servers are linked to create a larger computing environment.
The move by the Round Rock, Texas, computer maker comes at a time when Intel and other vendors are preparing to launch later this month an alliance to expand the reach of the Itanium platform.
Erica Fields, a spokesperson for Intel, said the chip maker was sorry that Dell Inc. decided to stop selling its two-way PowerEdge 3250 and four-way 7250, which was released just over a year ago.
"Were aware of the decision, and that, based on their business model—they go after the volume [server] business, this does make a lot of sense for them," Fields said.
However, she added that Dells "impact on sales has always been negligible."
Still, Dells decision came as a disappointment to Bobby Jefferson, director of IT at Hillco Ltd., which runs a number of its back-end applications—including its Oracle Corp. database—on Dell Itanium systems.
Jefferson said he learned about the decision earlier this week, when sales representatives said he would have to look at systems based on 64-bit Xeon processors when the leases on the Itanium servers expires.
Hillco was an early adopter of Itanium, and Jefferson said the systems gave him good performance without heat or power problems.
"Ive got one of them that I dont think Ive touched at all," said Jefferson, in Kinston, N.C. "It never had an error, glitch or hardware problem."
He currently is testing single-core Xeon systems, and will bring in dual-core Xeon servers to test as well, but also is considering another vendor other than Dell if he decides to stick with the Itaniums or if he chooses to move to Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s Opteron platform.
Jefferson said he was disappointed in what he sees as Intels reluctance to fully promote Itanium.
"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."
For its part, Dell has had a checkered past with Itanium.
Back in 2001, the company discontinued its Itanium workstation.
Dell initially subbed the Itanium 2 chip as well.
On the other hand, Hewlett-Packard Co., which co-developed Itanium with Intel, remains the top vendor of systems based on the chip.
HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., is in the process of standardizing its line of high-end systems on Itanium, creating a family of servers called the Integrity line.
There are a number of other vendors who sell Itanium systems, including a host of second-tier server makers—such as Fujitsu Ltd., Unisys Corp., NEC Solutions America Inc. and Silicon Graphics Inc.—who have adopted the platform for their high-end systems.
Fields, the Intel spokesperson, said that there is still a lot of momentum behind Itanium, particularly in the three areas that the Santa Clara, Calif., chip maker has identified as target spaces—RISC replacement, mainframe replacement and high-performance computing.
Intel reiterated its commitment to the platform during its developer forum in August, outlining multicore designs its engineers are working on and pointing out a host of vendor and end-user wins. They also pointed out that there are more than 4,500 software applications for Itanium.
Intel is preparing to launch the first dual-core Itanium chip, code-named Montecito, late this year, and has designs on the roadmap for four-core systems, called "Tukwila" in 2007 and "Poulson" after that.
Intel is also hoping a new alliance, to be announced later this month, will help fuel adoption.
A group of hardware makers and software companies is said to be close to making public the Itanium Solutions Alliance, a group aimed at expanding software development for the Intel server chip.
Intel and HP have collaborated with hardware makers and software companies for years on Itanium.
The efforts have lead to the creation of numerous 64-bit Linux operating system distributions, for example.
Itanium sales are expected to grow by 20 percent over the next five years, due in part to HPs efforts, analyst firm Gartner Inc., of Stamford, Conn., said earlier this year.
Shipments of Itanium totaled 26,000 in 2004, up from 14,168 in 2003, Gartner said.
Editors Note: John G. Spooner provided additional reporting for this story. This story was updated to include a comment from a Dell spokesman.