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RealTime IT News

Itanium, Take Two

Intel is set to unveil the dual-core "Montecito" version of its troubled Itanium processor line at an event in San Francisco today. Originally set for release last year, Intel has been forced to delay its release more than once.

Positioned for the high performance computing market, Intel  and its primary Itanium supporter, Hewlett-Packard,  continue to tout Itanium's value and growth prospects, while competitors and many analysts are far more pessimistic.

HP had planned to release systems based on Montecito earlier this year, but when the chip was delayed, the company came out with a new chipset and other components in a new release of its "Montecito-ready" Integrity server, based on the "Montvale" Itanium processor.

The Montecito release, however delayed, is good news for vendors of Itanium systems that have had little to cheer about as of late. After making big inroads the year before in the Top 500 Supercomputers list, the number of systems using Itanium dropped significantly in the rankings released earlier this month.

SGI, which had committed its entire line to Itanium, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May. The company hopes to emerge from bankruptcy protection later this year, but in the meantime it has shifted its product plans, building new systems based on Intel's Xeon processor.

Nevertheless, Itanium-based systems do sell and are a big business. And because they tend to be very high end, sophisticated systems, Itanium systems sell at healthy margins. Earlier this year, IDC estimated the market for Itanium-based servers will grow to approximately $6.6 billion by 2009. Over the next five years, the research firm said it expects the compound annual growth rate for Itanium-based servers to be 35 percent, compared to 3.4 percent for the overall server market.

While it's not known how many billions of dollars HP and Intel have invested in Itanium over the years (Itanium's roots go back to the early 1990s when both HP and Intel shared development), they are promising to spend billions more to make it succeed.

A consortium called the Itanium Solutions Alliance (ISA), backed largely by HP and Intel, said it plans to spend $10 billion thru 2010 to help drive adoption of Itanium systems. Other member companies in the ISA include: Bull, Fujitsu, Fujitsu-Siemens Computers, Hitachi, NEC, SGI and Unisys.