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
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.
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
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.
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 www.intel.com/ids/eap, then use
the tools for the porting and testing of their application
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
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 email@example.com