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.

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