Tire-kickers ready to try Itanium 2: analyst

Intel Corp.‘s 64-bit Itanium 2 processor, released Monday, will garner significantly more market acceptance than its hard luck predecessor, according to one analyst.

Itanium failed to draw much customer interest due to “”less

than exciting”” performance, said Insight 64 principle analyst Nathan Brookwood. “”The original Itanium system barely showed up on the radar screen. Their market share was really too small to measure.”” But the latest iteration will provide customers competitive price-performance, he said.

Many users will stick to what they already have — be it Sun Microsystems’ Sparc or IBM’s Power chip — but others will be forced to take a look at what the Intel-based systems are doing, said Brookwood. “”Itanium 2 delivers superior value and price-performance when compared with the established players in that segment,”” he said.

The original Itanium gave independent software vendors (ISVs) a chance to dabble in new technology, said Lorne Weiner, server manager for Mississauga, Ont.-based Hewlett-Packard Canada. “”The idea was for ISVs and businesses to look at the architecture, prove some concepts, do some development and see what it could do.””

The platform has since had a year to mature, said Brookwood. “”The guys who buy boxes now have had a chance to kick the tires and at least convince themselves that the software is ready for prime time.””

HP helped develop the IA-UX architecture and introduced four Itanium 2-based systems at launch. Canadian interest in the products ranges from universities to financial institutions, said Weiner. “”A lot of companies have infrastructures that they would be interested in taking the cost out of. That’s why we’ve been doing so much business around server (and) systems consolidation. The Itanium 2 platform is of tremendous interest to these companies,”” he said.

Price point may be enough to overcome user reluctance to switch platforms, said Peter de Fauw, CEO of Prince George, B.C.-based Defau Systems and Services. Small and medium-sized companies will probably be satisfied with Pentium 4 architecture, but larger corporations with an enormous amount of data that needs to be moved all the time will definitely be looking at more powerful solutions, he said. “”Those people are able to look more towards the future and they’ll be more interested in buying a processor that will still be powerful two years from now,”” he said.

Itanium 2 also has a definite upgrade plan. Itanium was built on a unique bus structure, but Itanium 2 will share the same bus as the next two versions, according to Intel Canada country manager Doug Cooper. Itanium 3 (code-named Madison) and 4 (code-named Montecito) will be introduced over the next two years.

Itanium 2 may be a huge leap forward for Intel, but the platform will experience single-digit growth for at least the next year, said Brookwood. But by the time Itanium 5 (Chivano) hits the market in another three years, Brookwood anticipates it could account for 40 per cent of the high-end server space.

Microsoft will make Windows Advanced Server 1.2, designed to take advantage of Itanium 2, available to OEMs later this month. IBM and Fujitsu are expected to announce Itanium 2 product in the coming weeks. A total of 20 OEMs will have product in the pipeline by the end of the year, said Cooper.

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