The Way Business Is Moving published by
Issue Date: October 2002

Inside Itanium

1 October 2002
A QA with Kevin Barnard, HP UNIX and Itanium product manager and Andrew Fletcher, HP

Itanium is Intel's first microprocessor that is based on the 64-bit architecture known as IA-64. Developed under the code name of Merced, Itanium and its underlying architecture are expected to provide a foundation for the next-generation of software for the server and high-end workstation markets. Q: What do you see as the broad trends in the enterprise server market?
[Fletcher] Server consolidation and cost reduction pressures are driving the trends. Technologies are being developed to optimise infrastructure and there is a demand for open systems architectures where the customer is not locked into one operating system on one platform and having to pay exorbitant maintenance costs.
The technologies being developed today are most definitely designed to optimise the datacentre, namely adaptive infrastructure, clusters, cell-based designs, partitioning, virtual partitioning, goal-based workload management and utility computing models. This is what HP refers to as the utility computing model, which is based on an always on Internet infrastructure, where the datacentre can be anywhere and, whether you want to scale up or scale out, management becomes an easy process.
With the introduction of Itanium we will see the costs being driven down and this technology replacing the RISC superior price/performance scalability in the enterprise. The enterprise will now have a choice of the industry-leading hp-ux11i, linux64 and more scaleable Windows solutions.
Q: How are enterprise users' requirements different from those in the lower end of the server market?

In a 24-hour day, systems need to be available for the proverbial 25 hours. Being able to provide a customer with availability of all hardware is key to a business' growth as well as the growth of its customers.
Enterprise customers provide and demand service level agreements (SLAs) that protect their investments. At this point in time downtime carries a higher price for the enterprise market than for the smaller server user.
Please note, I am not discounting the importance of uptime for the smaller server users but, in most cases, 24-hour days are rare in this market.
I also think it is important to look at the value add, like those that we sell with the HP enterprise server range. Temporary ICOD, virtual partitions, inbox upgrades and many other products, assist HP's enterprise customer in times of need.
Many of these features are being built into our roadmap of investment protecting, of which Itanium is a key part.
Q: What does the arrival of Intel's Itanium mean for users?

The arrival of Itanium is key for the growth of a customer's IT base. Customers are demanding more speed, better uptime, cheaper cost from vendors and I believe we are going to see most of these needs, answered with the advent of Itanium.
We, in the technology arena, have all been through the CRM wave of activity where customer information was king, and the more information you had, the better you were equipped to target specific customer with products and information pertaining to their needs. What most of the general market did not see were the demands placed on data, time, servers, application and accuracy of the information desired. What is significant here is the 64-bit capability of Itanium to address the larger and more complex files in the database.
On the other hand we, here at HP, have more demands being placed on the application running on the customers servers. With increased pressure of time to final product, customers are placing more demands on server usage and thus more memory. Itanium answers most of these requirements by addressing more than 4 GB of memory, larger computing files and better performance.
[Fletcher] Itanium is a revolution in IT. It enables the industry to develop solutions for the next 15 to 20 years. Itanium breaks through the architectural limitations of the IA32 technology with limitations on bandwidth, memory and processor scaling.
Q: Are commodity Wintel platforms really suited to meet the specialised needs of the enterprise server market?

No, I do not believe they are ready for Itanium. Itanium today is about speed, larger data computations, security and better floating-point performance for databases and technical design systems. The next five years is very important for the enterprise market. If you as a service provider, (whether that be internal to a company or external to the market), cannot deliver on your customers needs, you are going to lose business.
Q: Does Itanium spell the end for RISC?

In the short-term no, but in 4-5 years time you will see RISC and Alpha on their way out. HP will continue to invest in PA-RISC and Alpha until at least 2006 and have support for these products until 2011. Itanium will be the mainstream server processing technology of the future.

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