HP laid a ‘huge bet’ on Itanium, CTO says

A top Hewlett-Packard Co. executive on Thursday signaled his company’s commitment to Intel Corp.’s Itanium processor in perhaps the strongest terms yet, saying the company has laid a “huge bet” on Intel’s family of 64-bit chips.

“In a very real sense, HP has moved the company behind IA-64,” said Richard DeMillo, HP vice-president and chief technology officer, in a speech at the HP World conference here. “I would hesitate to say we bet the company on it, but if truth be told, we have put a huge bet behind IA-64.”

HP engineers worked closely with Intel to develop Itanium, which will be offered by a variety of vendors in servers designed to compete with more established – and often more expensive – proprietary Unix systems from the likes of Sun Microsystems Inc. Itanium systems began rolling out earlier this year, and analysts have said they expect demand to pick up gradually over the coming year.

Itanium is the topic of the moment for HP at its customer conference here, with HP executives and customers talking about their expectations for the chip. In contrast to Intel’s previous 32-bit processors, Itanium processes data in chunks that are 64 bits wide, making it better suited for running large, enterprise-class applications.

HP announced a pair of technologies here this week that could help make its Itanium bet pay off. One is a version of Linux developed in-house at HP designed to offer enhanced security features for customers that deal with particularly sensitive data. Linux is one of the operating systems that will be offered on Itanium systems, along with Microsoft Windows and various flavors of Unix.

In addition, DeMillo on Thursday disclosed details of HP’s Secure Platform Architecture, technology intended to minimize the impact of hardware and software bugs in Itanium servers that will be made available to customers in the second quarter next year.

DeMillo offered few details about the technology other than saying it will be able to identify bugs or system errors at an early stage and help prevent those bugs from affecting other parts of a server, including the processor itself and any software the server might be running.

“(The Secure Platform Architecture) exploits the ability of Itanium to isolate four separate layers of protection and have hardware protection at higher levels,” DeMillo said.

More information about HP World, which continues through Friday, is on the Web at http://www.hpworld.com/.

HP, based in Palo Alto, Calif., can be reached at http://www.hp.com/.