Vendors catch Itanium fever

Spreading like a virus everyone wants to catch, hardware and software vendors lined up Tuesday to announce their support for Intel's new Itanium 64-bit chip, parading a slew of new products while promising consumers high-performance and variety.

Hardware big names such as Itanium co-developer Hewlett-Packard (HP) and software makers like Red Hat toasted the long-awaited arrival of Intel's new chip by popping the cork on a range of Itanium-based products.

The widely-expected support came shortly after Intel unwrapped its new chip Tuesday, whose seven-year gestation period has had vendors tapping their fingers in anticipation of adopting the new high-powered processor.

Itanium was co-developed by Intel and HP for corporate servers and workstations. Intel hopes that Itanium's 64-bit architecture will allow it to gain a foothold in the medium- to large-sized business market, currently dominated by competitors such as Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM Corp. with systems that use proprietary RISC (reduced instruction set computing) processors.

Proud papa HP showed its support by announcing a variety of Itanium-based systems and services. HP's Itanium-based systems include the Workstation i2000, with up to 2 processors, the HP Server rx4610, carrying up to 4 processors, and the HP Server rx9610, boasting up to 16 processors. The host of new systems is due to be available in late June and will support Windows, Linux or HP-UX, the company's UNIX operating system, the company said.

To back up HP's Itanium campaign, the company is also offering consulting, education, software and financing services. HP said that it will not only help consumers finance the purchase of Itanium-based workstations, but will provide future financial rewards and education for Itanium users.

Fresh on HP's heels, IBM also unveiled a new Itanium-based server and workstation Tuesday, announcing the eServer x380 for data-intensive applications and the IntelliStation Z Pro workstation for engineers, media creators and scientists.

Compaq Computer Corp. launched a new line of ProLiant 64-bit servers running either Windows Advanced Server Limited Edition and Linux operating systems, which will be available in the third-quarter of this year. Hoping to promote the quick spread of Itanium, Compaq also announced an Itanium-integration campaign dubbed TrailBlazer. Under the TrailBlazer program the company is working with application developers and early adopters to develop 64-bit applications on ProLiant servers.

Not to be left behind, Dell Computer Corp. announced its new Itanium-powered Workstation 730, which the company says can accomplish nearly double the work of its 32-bit predecessor. The Workstation 730 will be available in the U.S. later this year, with prices beginning at US$7,999.

For companies that want to upgrade their system to the new processor, Unisys Corp. announced Tuesday that its e-@ction Enterprise Server ES7000 will simultaneously support the new chip as well as Intel's Pentium III Xeon with the Microsoft Windows Advanced Server Limited Edition software. Both the Pentium III Xeon and Itanium chips can run side by side in the server, allowing users to run existing 32-bit-based applications while testing and developing 64-bit applications, the company said.

Linux users also get a chance to throw their hats in the Itanium ring with Red Hat's introduction of its Linux 7.1 for the Itanium processor. The new operating system is geared at the corporate market and includes a 2.4 kernel, supporting a greater number of users.

Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) also joined the parade, unveiling its Itanium-based Silicon Graphics 750 system for Linux.

Storage networking provider Emulex Corp. also joined the Itanium club, announcing that its LightPulse family of Fibre Channel host bus adapters will support the new chip.

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