Why HP stays the Itanium course
January 26, 2007
HP and Intel have taken a lot of lumps for keeping up the hype on Itanium chips, the heart of Integrity servers that provide HP-UX a home for the future. Itanium's mission has shifted a lot since the heady days of the HP-Intel heralding. Once a candidate for market domination, the processor and its servers are now aimed at the enterprise — including HP 3000 replacements.
But there's a strong attraction for Intel to continue with Itanium designs. The company has plenty planned, as can be seen by the chart at left. (Give it a click to pull up a version where the detail is legible.) But it will be sometime next year, at the soonest, before the chips attain compatibility with Xeon multiprocessor architecture — and so the x86 applications — according to the Intel schedule we saw at HP's Integrity road show. That will mean more applications to choose from, but only after a processor upgrade. Ah, the benefits of churn. Intel claims it's already got 80 percent of x86 marketplace, including a broad swath of HP Proliant systems running the Xeon chips.
Xeons are so popular that Apple uses them to power its Unix servers, the XServe models. Like just about everything from Intel these days, the Xeons have a dual core design. So what gives Itanium the secure place in the Intel futures, and by extension, a safe spot for future HP-UX releases? In a succinct phrase, the untapped billions that Intel hasn't snagged yet out of IT.
Intel told the tale at the Integrity road show, the same one that it presented at last year's HP Technology Forum: we don't even have 20 percent of the enterprise processor marketplace. Even HP's chip designs have a bigger footprint.
And by HP designs, we mean the PA-RISC CPUs driving systems like your HP 3000, the L-Class servers now standing in as new processing points for MPE/iX, and so much more. Not millions, but surely hundreds of thousands of servers in the enterprise run on PA-RISC.
Intel says it's hungry for more share in a spot they don't dominate. $28 billion a year, by the company's estimates, goes toward systems that require enterprise-grade processing. Apparently that doesn't include many Windows systems, since Xeon and Windows have been joined at the hip. So Intel will chase an increased share of those billions. HP's designs that use Itanium 2 support electrical partitions for virtualization, according to Intel's Todd Phillips. That's an advantage HP will tout with its new Virtualization management software.
This month HP created a new software group within the Enterprise Servers and Storage group to hawk its most advanced virtualization. HP hasn't been shy about where the broadest virtualization will run, either: only on its Itanium-powered systems.