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Issue of August 2002 
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Market Watch: Itanium 2
Intel's optimistic about Itanium 2

The second iteration of the Itanium is here. And Intel is going the extra mile to ensure it gains acceptability in the enterprise. by Brian Pereira

The original Itanium was considered as a 'test processor' by many analysts. Intel justifies this by saying the first version of Itanium was really for early adopters and ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) . But when it launched the Itanium 2 processor last month, Intel said Itanium is now ready for the enterprise it offers double the performance, has a large base of OEMs and ISVs, and offers investment protection with features like forward compatibility. What's more, Intel has also made it easier for enterprises and ISVs to port their 32-bit applications to the IA-64 (64-bit Intel architecture) platform. Clearly, Intel has a long roadmap ahead for the Itanium platform.

"With Itanium we worked with the early adopters, with developers, and with those involved in high-performance computing," says Narendra Bhandari, Intel's APAC Regional Manager-Strategic Relations, Internet Solutions Group. "Now that all the major software vendors are bringing out production versions of their software, it is value for the enterprise."

The Itanium 2 is a 64-bit processor specifically designed for high-end enterprise applications like databases, business intelligence, ERP, SCM, computer-aided engineering and security transactions. It is also designed for high-performance computing applications like grid computing. With Itanium 2 Intel hopes to gain market share in the high-end server space-a segment long dominated by Sun Microsystems.

According to Intel all the major ISVs and OEMs have been working on the Itanium platform for the past 18 months. As a result, OEMs like IBM, HP, NEC, Unisys are about to roll out 4-, 8-, and 16-processor systems. Indian OEMs like Wipro and HCL will also launch Itanium 2 servers.

Around seven operating systems are currently tuned for the Itanium 2 platform. These include Microsoft Windows Advanced Server Limited Edition and Windows XP 64-bit Edition; various Linux distributions (Red Hat, Caldera, SuSe, Turbo Linux), and HP-UX 11i. In addition, HP is porting its OpenVMS and Nonstop Kernel to this platform. Microsoft is expected to introduce versions of Windows.Net Datacenter and Enterprise Server for Itanium 2.

Intel says more than 100 software applications are in the final stages of development and this includes software from Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, CA, IBM, BEA, SAS, and others. Indian software developers like i-Flex, TCS, Persistent, Wipro, and HCL Infosys are releasing Itanium 2 versions of their applications.

Besides a strong base of OEMs and ISVs, the other feature that Intel is counting on, is forward compatibility. Avtar Saini, Intel Director-South Asia says the company has done this for the first time.

"The Itanium 2 processor will be around for a while and its successors that come out later will be (socket) compatible with Itanium 2. We are doing this to address the investment protection issue," says Saini.

Future processors like Madison, Deerfield and Montecito will be designed to use the same Itanium 2 socket. This will enable enterprises to upgrade without replacing entire servers, thus saving costs and protecting investments.

Intel is also making it easier for developers and enterprises to port applications to the Itanium 2 platform. A new aspect of the developer program is EAP (Early Access Program). This is a program where any developer, anywhere in the world, is able to access the Itanium 2 platform without purchasing the hardware. Developers need to log in to the website, then use the tools for the porting and testing of their application online.

"With this facility developers need not invest in the hardware platform in advance, yet they can access the platform early, even before the launch of the processor in the marketplace," says Bhandari.

In addition, Intel also offers support to enterprises who wish to port their 32-bit applications to IA-64.

Says Bhandari, "At the Intel Solutions Centers in Bangalore we have all kinds of computer equipment, tools and consultant support for taking an application and showing enterprises how to migrate it. We can also simulate an enterprise environment for the customer, test the load and see what kind of infrastructure they need. They bring their own application, set it up at our center, and we generate the load to show them how that enterprise infrastructure is scaling based on the load."

The Itanium 2 architecture incorporates some innovative features like 3 MB on-die level-3 cache, support for multiple processors (2 to 16-processor systems), and 6.4 Gbps bus bandwidth. The processor is immediately available in two versions: 3 MB and 1.5 MB integrated level-3 cache, and at 1 GHz and 900 MHz frequency speeds.

Brian Pereira can be reached at

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