Sun Blasts Intels Itanium

Sun calls Intel's 64-bit Itanium processor "most expensive disaster in the history of high tech."

Sun Microsystems Inc. delivered a scorching attack on Intel Corp.s 64-bit Itanium processor to an audience of analysts and reporters Wednesday, deriding the chips design and lambasting it as the "most expensive disaster in the history of high tech."

The unusually harsh rhetoric from Sun executives marks the companys counterassault against Intels recent promotional efforts touting the 1GHz Itanium 2, released last month, as a faster and cheaper alternative to Suns UltraSparc-based systems.

While Sun stands as the longtime leader in sales of high-power 64-bit servers, where systems can cost more than $1 million a piece, it has been hard hit by a downturn in sales since mid-2000 and increased competition from its top rivals, Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM.

And while Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., is a relative newcomer in the 64-bit market, Itanium has the backing of HP, which co-developed the chip and has announced plans to migrate all of its high-end servers to it.

One day after Sun unveiled its fastest processor yet, a 1.05GHz UltraSparc III, company executives used a conference call with analyst and reporters to fire back at Intel, which has heavily promoted Itanium 2 by touting its price/performance advantages over Suns UltraSparc III.

Shahin Kahn, Suns vice president of computing systems, led the assault, mocking Itanium as a "seriously bad idea" and predicting itll eventually be viewed as the "most expensive disaster in the history of high tech," an apparent reference to the more than $1 billion Intel is speculated to have invested in the chip.

Suns attack on Itanium confirms that the computer maker already is feeling threatened by the new rival, one analyst said.

"I think theyre reacting a bit like they have their back against the wall," said Kevin Krewell, a processor analyst for In-Stat/MDR, in Sunnyvale, Calif.