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Itanium cruising at full steam, claims backers

Jan 9, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

The Itanium Solutions Alliance (ISA) released a report on its efforts to provide open standards for Itanium, Intel's first 64-bit architecture. 2008 was a very good year for the Linux-compatible Itanium, with $1 billion in Itanium-related revenues over the last five quarters, says the group.

(Click for larger view of SGI's Itanium-based Altix supercomputer)

Aiming to counter skeptics who have noted that other 64-bit x86 architectures, such as AMD64, x86-64, and EMT, have far outdeployed Itanium (which The Register used to call “the Itanic”), ISA argues that the platform is pushing forward at full steam, with no icebergs in sight. Total global shipments having exceeded 210,000 units, says the group, which comprises over 200 organizations.

Long supported by Linux, Itanium gained a KVM port in Linux 2.6.26. The platform has attracted widespread interest in the scientific and academic communities, and has made its mark in the high-performance and supercomputing markets. For example, Itanium is found in the 13.1-TFLOPS SGI Altix supercomputer (pictured at top), which was billed as the world's largest single-kernel Linux system when NASA announced it would purchase the computer in June 2007.

Itanium-based server technology is spreading downward and outward to a wider segment of computing platforms, says ISA, stating, “Itanium-based systems saw increased migration from legacy mainframes and earned continued success in the mission-critical and computationally intensive arenas.” The platform has seen particular growth in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Asia), where Gartner reported Itanium enjoying an eight percent share increase at the end of Q3 2008, says the group.

Noting robust support from operating system vendors including Novell, Red Hat, and Microsoft, ISA reports that the platform has also benefited from contributions from the open source community. There are now said to be more than 13,000 Itanium-compatible applications for mission-critical computing across industries such as financial services, manufacturing, and the biosciences.

ISA reported 2008 milestones for the Itanium platform, including:

  • Fujitsu PrimeQuest and Red Hat Linux support — In April, Fujitsu Limited launched its PrimeQuest line of servers, built on dual-core Itanium 9100 series processors. Brazil's Vivo telecom provider made a major purchase of the PrimeQuest servers for its credit/payments network. In November, Fujitsu and Red Hat started joint development of Linux support services for using the platform in mission-critical environments, says ISA.
  • Hitachi Virtage — Hitachi ported its Virtage embedded firmware virtualization technology to blade servers based on the Itanium 9100.
  • HP Integrity NonStop NB50000c BladeSystem — HP's new high-availability, fault-tolerant BladeSystem features Itanium processors. HP also introduced the Itanium-based HP Integrity BL870c server blade.
  • Sun Java SE support - Released in October in collaboration with Intel, Sun Java SE 6 Update 7 for Itanium supports both Linux and Windows, and makes enhancements to the Hotspot Virtual Machine and class libraries for faster performance.
  • Microsoft .NET — Microsoft has been advancing its.NET framework on the Itanium architecture, says ISA. (Not noted here, but Itanium is also supported by the open-source .NET clone, Mono 2.0.)
  • Sophos Anti-Virus — Sophos has ported its Sophos Anti-Virus application to Itanium.
  • NEC Express 5800 Series in Taiwan — The Taiwanese Bureau of Labor Insurance purchased 100 NEC servers, including Itanium-based NEC Express 5800 Series servers for its mission-critical system for handling pension-related data
  • SGI EventVUE for Altix Servers — SGI's Complex Event Processing (CEP) EventVUE system has been optimized for its Itanium-based Altix servers. The CEP platform combines SGI compute and visualization capabilities for government, defense, and Homeland Security applications.

Stated Joan Jacobs, president and executive director, “Itanium-based solutions continue to grow in application support, system volume and market share, thanks to considerable advantages for mission-critical databases, data center modernization and computationally intensive applications.”

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