Intel gearing up for Itanium launch

Intel Corp. will have its Itanium coming out party on May 29 with a number of vendors launching servers and workstations, according to various industry sources.

Intel’s latest processor will be the company’s first foray into 64-bit systems and could help the vendor compete in the high-end server market dominated by Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM Corp., according to industry analysts. The chip’s launch has been hindered by numerous delays; however, several hardware vendors confirmed they would quickly follow Intel’s announcement by releasing hardware based on the chip.

Intel would not confirm the May 29 launch, saying only that myriad vendors would bring out both servers and workstations in the next several weeks. During that time frame, vendors would release Itanium boxes running Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 2000, Hewlett-Packard Co.’s HP-UX, IBM Corp.’s AIX 5L and Novell Inc. operating systems, said an Intel spokeswoman. In addition, a number of Itanium systems running Linux will also be announced when the chip is launched, meeting analysts’ expectations that the open source OS would be one of the lead platforms on the new processor.

Sources close to Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) confirmed that the company will announce an Itanium workstation, running Linux, on the 29th. The company then plans to follow shortly thereafter with servers using the Itanium chip and possibly several flavors of Linux. The workstation appearing at the initial launch is expected to run a version of Linux developed by TurboLinux Inc.

Dell Computer Corp. has also said it will come to market with PowerEdge servers and Precision workstations running on the Itanium chip. The Austin, Texas-based vendor would not confirm a launch date or availability of the new products, saying only that it will be one of the first to announce a product once Intel gives the word.

HP will come out with both workstations and servers that will be available as soon as Intel launches its new chip, a company spokesman said. HP’s systems are expected to be available with its own HP-UX operating system and a version of Linux.

IBM and Compaq Computer Corp. are also expected to launch a variety of workstations and servers close to the announcement date.

Sun and IBM have led the 64-bit market, coupling their RISC chip technology with highly stable OSes. This combination helped the vendors attract large corporate customers, looking for powerful hardware.

While there has been much anticipation from the industry for Intel’s high-powered chip, many analysts expect that Intel’s second-generation 64-bit processor named McKinley will be what Intel needs to compete for users on equal ground with IBM and Sun in the high-end market.

Analysts look for early adopters to buy smaller systems running Itanium first, putting the machines through trials and then move toward complete, higher-end systems later on.

Intel, in Santa Clara, Calif., can be reached at