Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) Tuesday unveiled its Itanium-based servers and workstations, with executives expressing confidence that the new 64-bit architecture is the first step towards a new era for enterprise computing.
HP, which co-developed the architecture behind the new chip with Intel Corp., unveiled three Itanium-based systems Tuesday here at the company's headquarters. The HP Workstation i2000, which is available in one- or two-processor configurations, the HP Server rx4610, with up to four processors and the HP Server rx9610, with up to 16 processors.
Most major server vendors, including Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp. and IBM Corp. also announced Itanium systems Tuesday. "This launch is not just important to us, it's critical," said Paul Otellini, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group. "These architectures tend to run for 10 to 20 years."
Executives and technical developers from both HP and Intel gave a presentation on the new products in the same small conference room where the first secretive meetings between the two companies were held in 1993.
The Itanium systems are aimed at corporations working with large databases, scientific computing and computer-assisted design (CAD) applications, Otellini said. Another Itanium strength is encrypting and decrypting SSL (secure socket layer) transactions, he added.
However, the companies don't expect to see the market flooded with Itanium systems. "The impact on the marketplace will not be seen immediately," Otellini said. "This is the end of the bubble and the beginning of the build out."
"Some customers will switch (to Itanium) now, some won't," said Duane Zitzner, president of computing systems and vice president of HP. "People will get it for very selective applications."
Either way, customers don't have too long to wait before the next step in Intel's 64-bit family, codenamed McKinley, rolls out. McKinley, which will have more features than Itanium, will begin pilot tests at the end of this year with systems starting to be produced in the first half of next year, Otellini said.
"We'll have the classic learning curve going from (Itanium) to McKinley," Otellini said. McKinley will have a larger memory cache on the processor itself, and is also expected to benefit from InfiniBand products, which will hit the market at the end of this year. InfiniBand is a technology similar to USB (universal serial bus) for servers, except where USB can transfer 12M bytes per second, InfiniBand has a transfer rate of 2.5G bytes per second.
Although HP hasn't stopped developing its own PA RISC Unix processors, the company "will be transitioning over the next couple of years to IA-64," said Zitzner.
"We don't necessarily think we have to be in the chip business," Zitzner said. "We can build systems around them."
HP's workstation will be available on June 11, with the Server rx4610 to follow in late June, and the Server rx9610 in August.