HP, Red Hat bring Linux to Itanium 2

Intel Corp. signed on another supporter Tuesday for its Itanium 2 processor, this time Linux operating system maker Red Hat Inc.

Through a partnership with Hewlett-Packard Co., Red Hat said it has committed to releasing a version of its Red Hat Linux Advanced Server operating system that will be offered on HP’s Proliant servers, as well as its workstations, that use Itanium 2 chips.

The companies said they expect to be the first to offer servers running Linux on Itanium 2-based systems. An HP spokeswoman Tuesday said the first Itanium 2 systems from HP should go on sale by the end of July; pricing was not immediately available. HP worked with Intel to develop its 64-bit processors.

“In terms of the success of Red Hat with Advanced Server, we’re seeing most of that success come from customers making the Unix -to-Linux migration, and they’re used to having 64-bit capabilities,” said Mike Evans, vice president of business development at Red Hat, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“They want the comfort of Linux as they move off of Unix and it leads us to believe that there is a sizable market for Itanium,” he said.

Intel has pitched Itanium 2, formerly known as McKinley, as a processor for servers that can offer a lower-cost alternative to Unix machines from Sun Microsystems Inc., IBM Corp. and others.

A variety of Linux vendors are tuning versions of their software to run on Itanium 2. In May, four Linux vendors including Caldera Inc. and Germany’s SuSE Linux AG pledged to create a single distribution of the open source operating system called UnitedLinux, which will also be tuned to run well on Itanium 2.

“All the major distributions will need to support Intel’s 64-bit platform,” said David Freund, an analyst with research firm Illuminata, in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Microsoft Corp. is readying a “limited” version of Window Advanced Server for Itanium 2 servers, Intel has said. That release will likely be more of a test vehicle for Windows on Itanium, Freund said. A future version of that server operating system designed around Microsoft’s .Net technology is expected later this year and will likely be better tuned to run on the 64-bit chip, Freund said.

The .NET release will be “the preferred operating system for Itanium 2 from Microsoft’s perspective,” he said.

A version of HP’s Unix operating system, HP-UX, will also be tuned for the new chips, Intel has said.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. is working on its own 64-bit chip to compete against the Itanium family. In March, AMD said it was working with SuSE Linux to tune a version of its operating system to run on servers with 64-bit AMD’s chips.

Itanium 2 will be the second of Intel’s 64-bit processors. The first version did not perform as well as expected, analysts said, and came to be regarded as a test vehicle for developers and system makers. Intel recently announced the results of internal tests which it said show that Itanium should offer as much as twice the performance of its predecessor.

HP is online at http://www.hp.com