HP's fourth quarter blasts profit records
Considering Unix as a destination

Rocks tossed from the Blue

Since HP has now started to ship its speed-busting Montecito-based Integrity servers, IBM has fired up a loose cannon to hurl FUD rocks across the bow of the HMS Itanium. Big Blue, now trailing HP in overall revenues in the computer business, hired analyst Joe Clabby to explain why he's turned his coat against Itanium.

Clabby is careful to mention he was among the Itanium boosters as recently as last year. His admission and comments come in a 25-minute, Flash-based videocast which IBM has paid for, a screed in which he flogs a list of 10 reasons why migration to Itanium is a bad idea.

None of the items on Clabby's list are really news; it's just that now he's on the side of the skeptics about whether the migration is worth the effort, and whether Itanium is a destination worthy of the expense. Just have a look at his 10 reasons:

1. Forced migration
2. Changing market conditions
3. Roadmap slippage
4. The scale-up/cascade down dilemma
5. Lack of innovation
6. Ecosystem weaknesses
7. Workload emphasis
8. The propaganda machine
9. Intel re-evaluation
10. Future promises

What is Number 8 even doing on the list? Propaganda is what the opposition calls your truth they disbelieve. As for forced migration, the topic is absolutely no news whatsoever to the HP 3000 customer. How much forcing is really going on for anyone but the Alpha customers ? Depends on what else you're selling against Itanium?

Let's be clear here. Analysts like Clabby, or those who work for Gartner, are all for hire. In one way or another, a fee is exchanged — and nothing as value-priced as what we earn at The NewsWire — for what Joe and analysts like him think. He first turned away from Itanium boosterism early this year, when the market was chewing over defections by IBM and a blown shipment date for Itanium's Montecito models.

In February of this year, I wrote an independent white paper that openly criticized Itanium and the ISA.  That white paper was funded by no one. The opinions expressed here are my own.

We will only note that everybody's opinions are their own, on any subject. That's not what is purchased. What's bought and placed on the Internet is the slick camera work, the transcript captioning in a polished Flash 9 Web presentation, the podcast and video podcast of Clabby's opinions. Instances where he was surely paid to sit by the camera, microphone or deliver his slides for use by IBM.

But they are his opinions, for sure, and that February white paper which was his audition for this paid mudslinging, yeah, it was independent. Back then, anyway.

The opinions include questions that few buyers will understand, like "Where are the new technologies such as silicon-on-insulator or strained silicon (dual stress)?"

The valid questions are issues of business that nobody can see clearly or guarantee they know the answers to; questions like "How important will Itanium remain to Intel?" or "How many companies will offer applications written natively to Itanium's architecture?"

Intel's answer to the first is that Itanium represents the company's only real shot at new business. It already owns 80 percent of the desktop CPU space with its Xeon/Pentium chips, while it's got less than 25 percent of the headcount in the beefy-server space. Oh, and you can just imagine how much more Intel can charge for an Itanium 2 than a Pentium 4.

The answer to the second question, about how many apps, is "enough for some customers, and not enough for others," but the roll call does include apps with big profiles like Oracle and PeopleSoft and lots of apps in the Windows ecosystem.

We have argued this matter in the other direction. But at least we didn't advise people to sink investment money into Itanium, then watch the company go bust. Clabby tells a story about his advice iin 2004 to Migratech, no longer in business. By Clabby's account, the reason the company went under was HP and Intel's fault, not the reliance on faulty advice. Sitting on the company's advisory board, he

Recommended that Migratec focus on helping customers and ISVs move their applications from PA- RISC to Itanium — [and Migratec is] now defunct mostly because the Itanium market did not materialize.

Well, it didn't materialize by 2004, something nearly everybody could see back then. Being contrarian works better when you're advising caution rather than selling risk. It's clear we disagree about this subject, and Clabby and I have done so all along. Have a look at the dog and pony show out at the IBM-funded Web site, if you like. Its content says more than any analyst should trumpet about how this paid-advisor business works. Vendors are always after an indepdendent to toss over their independence. You have to wonder who is really convinced by something as showy as this.