Intel officials are unveiling the Itanium 9500 Series chips, the latest iteration of the company’s controversial high-end server processor family, and stressing that this is only the latest step in a road map that will stretch through most of the decade.
At an event Nov. 8 in San Francisco, Rory McInerney, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Server Development Group, told analysts and journalists that the new Itanium 9500—formerly code-named Poulson—offers OEMs and end users significant improvements in performance, scalability and energy efficiency, and is another step toward Intel’s efforts to more tightly align the Itanium chips with its x86-based Xeon server processors.
The new Itaniums also offer businesses an avenue to consolidate their mission-critical workloads from legacy RISC and mainframe systems onto more modern technology, and to continue their migration toward more cloud-based environments. The new capabilities in the Itanium 9500 series, coupled with the Common Platform strategy with the Xeon architecture, give businesses options for their high-end applications. The 9500 Series also is designed to handle such complex and heavy workloads as big data and business analytics.
With the Common Platform strategy, Itanium can take on more of the volume economics of Xeon, which in turn is gaining greater RAS (reliability, availability and security) capabilities now found in Itanium. All that gives organizations a complete portfolio of options for their mission-critical workloads, McInerney said.
“Customers can choose whichever one works in their environments,” he said during the event, which was Webcast.
Also at the event were officials from Hewlett-Packard, by far the largest Itanium customer. They announced a complete refresh of their high-end Integrity server line—including the Superdomes—with the Itanium 9500 chips, as well as the latest version of the company’s HP-UX Unix operating system. In addition, an official from Bull said that later this month, the French OEM will announce a new novascale gcos server that will be powered by the Poulson chips, while the chief technology officer at Chinese system maker Inspur announced the Inspur K1, a huge 32-socket system that will be powered by the chips.
Intel’s McInerney said the Poulson chips, with their new architecture, were “built for longevity,” and noted that the processors hold twice the number of cores (from four to eight) and offer twice the instruction throughput and 8 percent less power consumption than the current Itanium 9300 “Tukwila” processors, and 80 percent reduced power in each core when idling.
The chips, with a frequency of up to 2.53GHz, also offer 2.4 times the performance, 40 percent faster frequency and 33 percent greater bandwidth than the current generations. He also touted the parallelism available throughout the chip, from the core and memory to the instructions. “If you’re an Itanium user, you’ll see a big bump in performance,” he said.
Throughout the presentation, McInerney trumpeted Intel’s long-term plans for the Itanium platform, an issue that was the center of a contentious lawsuit between HP and Oracle earlier this year. In 2011, Oracle officials announced they would no longer port their enterprise applications—including their popular database software—to Itanium, claiming Intel was planning to end development of the platform in favor of Xeon. They also claimed that HP knew of the plans and failed to let partners and customers know.
Intel Intros New Itanium Processor; HP Unveils New Integrity Servers
Intel and HP executives disputed Oracle’s statements, saying the chip maker had a healthy road map for Itanium. HP sued, claiming Oracle’s decision violated an agreement between the two to support technology used by joint customers, and a judge this year agreed, ordering Oracle to continue to port its software to Itanium. Still, the litigation hurt HP, which saw sales in its Business Critical Systems group drop over the last year.
In response to a question, McInerney said the Oracle-HP lawsuit did not impact Intel’s thinking about Itanium.
“We were very clear during the whole case … we did not have changed plans before, and we don’t have changed plans afterward,” he said.
During the presentation, McInerney talked about plans for the follow-on to Poulson—dubbed “Kittson”—and the expansion of the Common Platform strategy. Currently Xeon and Itanium share common chipsets, memory and interconnects. With Kittson and the “Haswell” Xeon chips expected to come out sometime after 2013, the shared capabilities will extend to the silicon as part of what Intel calls its Modular Development Model, including design (memory, I/O and RAS features) and sockets.
Ric Lewis, vice president and general manager of HP’s Business Critical Systems group, said the company has refreshed its high-end Integrity line with the Itanium 9500 Series chips, including a new Superdome 2, three new Integrity server blades for the BladeSystem c-Class enclosure, and a new entry-level Integrity server for branch offices and expanding businesses that is highly energy-efficient.
Lewis also touted HP-UX v3, the latest version of the Unix operating system, which offers improved security and management capabilities, and new services and financing programs designed to make it easier for businesses to adopt HP’s Integrity systems. The improvements are aimed at giving businesses improved performance, high availability and total cost of ownership in their high-end servers.
In addition, like Intel, HP also has a plan under way to more closely align its Itanium- and x86-based ProLiant servers. Project Odyssey, announced in November 2011, is designed to enable businesses to run mission-critical systems on both Itanium-based Integrity servers and Xeon-based ProLiants in the same enclosure.
Intel officials said there are six Itanium customers, including HP, Bull, NEC, Hitachi, Huawei Technologies and Inspur. Inspur CTO Hu Leijun pointed to Itanium’s RAS features, performance, pin compatibility with Tukwila and road map as reasons for adopting the platform for its K1 server.
“We can go forward for years,” Leijun said during the event.