HP details Itanium development strategy

Despite last month’s announcement by Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. to exit the chip-making business and move its Itanium processor design team over to Intel Corp., the Palo Alto, Calif.-headquartered firm insists it is still committed to the server technology.

According to Steve Shaw, business development manager for business critical systems at Mississauga, Ont.-based HP Canada, HP will spend over US$3 billion in the next three years on Itanium-related product development.

Overall, HP has been happy with the inroads Itanium has made in Canada, Shaw said. The investment is intended to position Intel Itanium 2-based HP Integrity servers within the $20 billion market currently served by RISC processors, according to Shaw. Funding will go towards R&D, software and hardware design, and marketing.

The news effectively ends a 10-year pact to co-develop the Itanium chip for servers, and microprocessor development efforts within HP. Intel had intended for the processor to replace its 32-bit line of x86 processors. But while the technology has made inroads as a high-end server processor, Itanium has yet to attain broader adoption at the enterprise level.

The announcement is part of a revised strategy on the part of Intel and HP that presents Itanium as an alternative to the RISC (reduced instruction set computer) chips built by companies like IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. As part of the revised strategy to boost market share, HP will now refocus its Itanium efforts on system and software design, and on helping independent software vendors port their applications to the platform, Shaw said.

According to Shaw, the firm intends to spend money to recruit software companies to Itanium, and to optimize and market Itanium products for the next three years. According to industry analyst Gordon Haff of Illuminata Inc., bringing Itanium’s development under one roof may alleviate rival computer makers’ concerns about HP’s special relationship with Itanium and could also smooth out the microprocessor development process. Still, Haff was surprised that Intel would want to take on additional development responsibility for Itanium, given the processor’s lack of success. “Intel had certainly been giving the appearance of pulling back from Itanium over the last year or so,” he said.

With HP recently handing over the development of high-end Unix clustering and file system capabilities to Veritas Software Corp., this announcement appears to be part of a broader plan to refocus its product development work, Haff said. “HP is outsourcing everything they can,” he said.

Shaw noted that HP would continue to develop its HP-UX 11i RISC-based OS, with particular emphasis on enhancing its virtualization, high-availability and disaster-tolerance capabilities. For Windows Server 2003 and SQL Server, HP will collaborate closely with Microsoft Corp. to provide a trusted and scalable platform. HP has also established a dedicated engineering team to optimize Linux on Integrity servers.

— with files from IDG News service

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