Compaq Jilts Intel on IA-64

A month after Compaq Computer Corp. decided to drop support for Windows NT on its Alpha processors, the company continues to circle its wagons around its own technology by choosing not to port Tru64 Unix to Intel Corp.'s forthcoming 64-bit processor.

In an internal memo that was circulated last week, Compaq officials described the decision as a way to simplify its divergent product lines.

"As part of this simplification and focus, we are no longer planning to productize the port of Tru64 Unix to IA-64, although we will continue to work closely with OEM partners ... to ensure that their needs for Tru64 Unix on Alpha and IA-64 are met," the memo stated.

In limiting its customers to buying Tru64 Unix on Alpha, Compaq is making a major statement about the reliability and scalability of the Intel architecture in running high-end, mission-critical applications.

Given the company's focus on what it calls Non-Stop electronic-business solutions and its recent move away from the Wintel camp, it seems as if Compaq has lost confidence in the ability of Windows NT systems to run high-end data centers.

"In the wake of the Alpha/NT decision, this isn't really that surprising," said Terry Shannon of Shannon Knows Compaq, a newsletter based in Ashland, Massachusetts. "Compaq realized that given the fact that Compaq itself will support the Monterey implementation of Unix and will restrict IA-64 to low-end and midrange products, it made no sense to have Tru64 Unix in the IA-64 space. I think they realized it would be a nonstarter given the momentum already exhibited by Monterey."

For the IA-64 market, Compaq will push Monterey, a forthcoming version of Unix designed by IBM Corp., Compaq, Santa Cruz Operation Inc., and several other vendors.

In the meantime, Compaq is content to hone its Alpha strategy, promising a next generation of AlphaServers dubbed the GS Series.

The company is also planning several previews of forthcoming Alpha chips at Microprocessor Design conferences, according to the memo.

The move by Compaq is another blow to Intel's influence within the industry, according to observers.

After nasty public disagreements over the future of both server I/O architecture and memory technology, this latest move by Compaq leaves Intel's leadership role very much in doubt.

If other vendors were to follow suit, Windows NT and Intel processors would be in danger of being relegated to the low-end, low-margin PC server market.

Compaq Computer Corp., in Houston, can be reached at www.compaq.com. Intel Corp., in Santa Clara, California, can be reached at www.intel.com/.

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