Half of Wintel Is Missing

Linux and Unix first to arrive on 64-bit processor. So where's Microsoft?

Intel is finally shipping production quantities of its revolutionary 64-bit Itanium chip. More than 10 OEMs—including Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM—have announced plans to release Itanium servers and workstations. So, where are the Microsoft operating systems?

When it comes to the Itanium, Intel sources say that Microsoft and Intel are no longer the bosom buddies they once were. But publicly, Intel says the two companies are as close as they were when the term "Wintel" was first coined.

For now, though, the only Microsoft operating systems expected to run on newly minted Itanium servers will be the beta Windows XP 64-bit Edition Release Candidate 1 and the Windows 2000 spin-off, Windows Advanced Server Version 2002, which is expected to see the light of day late this year. While useful for developers, solutions providers wont be able to roll out either one in a production system.

The first ready for prime time, Microsoft operating system—according to a Microsoft representative—will be Windows XP 64-bit on Oct. 25—with its 32-bit XP brother.

Instead of Wintel, early Itanium adopters will be running Linux on Intel, or Lintel, as some insiders call it. Linux platform firms Red Hat, SuSE, and TurboLinux have announced the release of Linux 2.4 based Itanium Linuxes in mid-June.

Drew Spencer, CTO of Caldera, says that Caldera would release their Itanium Linux in the Q3. He also says that plans were still being worked out on whether OpenUnix (formerly UnixWare) would be ported to Itanium.

IBM and Calderas AIX 5L 5.1, like Microsofts operating systems, is lagging behind the Linuxes in the race for Itanium. The 64-bit AIX 5L is currently only available in a Technology Preview edition for Itanium. In addition, IBM is running Linux on its first Itanium server, the eServer x380.

HPs HP/UX on Itanium will also be ready to go in late June according to company executives. HP, which worked closely with Intel in developing the chip, claims that its customers will have little trouble moving HP-UX binary software applications from RISC chips to the Itanium.

IDCs Research Manager for Systems Software, Al Gillen, wonders if getting operating systems to Itanium is really that big a deal.

"Linux is first, but theres no golden cup at the end of the race," he says. "We believe 64-bit environments are only going to be good for Web commerce sites with lots of encryption, image modeling, high end database and other extremely demanding applications. We dont see users lining up to buy 64-bit computing."

ISVs, though, are lining up to bring their applications to the Itanium. Just recently, Apogee, Computer Associates International, IBM and SAS have announced plans to bring enterprise-level programs to Itanium.