RealTime IT News

HP Dumps 64-bit Interests

HP is doing a lot of explaining after it revealed this weekend that it will no longer put Itanium processors in its high-performance workstations.

The company said its decision was based on a lack of 64-bit software applications from Microsoft and the trend toward 64-bit extension Xeon chips coming from Intel and AMD's Opteron.

A spokesperson for Microsoft was not immediately available for comment.

HP said it will discontinue its Zx2000 and Zx6000 towers. HP said it would continue to take orders until the end of October and would offer support for these systems for the next five years.

The company also reiterated that it would still continue to support the 64-bit EPIC-based processors, which it co-developed with Intel, for its Integrity high-performance server family.

Don Jenkins, vice president of marketing for Business Critical Servers at HP, told internetnews.com the Itanium story is one of two markets: one that is developing and one that is still getting started.

"HP is a big Windows vendor, and the majority of our workstations -- about 70 percent -- run Windows programs," Jenkins said. "Our workstation family is just an extension of the PC business. As it has grown, the Windows side is predominately 32-bit applications and is not making very many moves on the 64-bit side. We saw too limited an opportunity to invest there and to ask our ISV partners to stay on this. For application providers, the opportunity to bring their apps to Itanium is offset with the decision to re-engineer their entire software architecture."

The company's server side is having an easier time selling Itanium, with at least one-third of HP's Integrity servers also running Microsoft programs, according to Jenkins.

In contrast to the company's workstations, Integrity servers specialize in intensive computing problems, such as weather analysis, data mining and crash demo modeling. The top list of applications running on Itanium include Microsoft SQL server, SAP, Oracle and then Microsoft Windows 2003.

However, while HP continues to be a leader with its Itanium shipments -- up some 500 percent according to the latest Gartner numbers -- Jenkins said HP's market share is eroding to companies like NEC, Hitachi and SGI when it comes to Itanium projects.

Jenkins also said the door is still open for Itanium to return to the workstation market should the numbers pick back up. Still, dropping an opportunity to sell a product that it spent billions on in development has raised a few eyebrows.

"Workstations are not servers, and HP walking away from this segment of the market doesn't imply that it will walk away from Itanium in servers," Gordon Haff, senior analyst and IT advisor at market research firm Illuminata, told internetnews.com. "But this move does speak to just how far the ambitions for Itanium have fallen within both the market as a whole and within HP."

HP is the last major OEM to sell Itanium workstations. When the original chip design was introduced in 2000, HP along with IBM and Dell all pledged support for the processor and promised to include it in their workstation products. Dell dropped their production of Itanium workstations in 2002 -- IBM shortly afterward.

Even Intel itself has not been overly enthusiastic about its Itanium sales. During this month's Intel Developer's Forum, Abhi Talwalkar, Intel's newly appointed general manager of the chipmaker's enterprise platform group, expressed concerns that its sales estimates may have been too "aggressive" than first realized.

Intel spokesperson Erica Fields quantified the HP decision to internetnews.com by pointing out that, "the workstation market has never been a main focus for our Itanium product family," and that "Itanium is targeted at the high-end RISC market and continues to make in-roads into this space."

HP's decision to abandon Itanium on workstations is also expected to have an adverse effect on hardware partners, such as SuperMicro, which produces Itanium-based motherboards. A spokesperson for SuperMicro was not immediately available for comment.

In a twist, HP still continues to sell its Alpha workstations, which were instrumental for animation rendering for such films as Shrek.