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IDC: Itanium 2 Poised for Takeoff

Despite a lackluster showing in its first decade, Intel’s Itanium 2 line of true 64-bit CPUs may be set to come into its own with strong growth likely in the next three years, according to a new report from market researchers at IDC.

Itanium was once heralded as the sure successor to 32-bit computing. Many analysts were predicting widespread industry adoption of Itanium-based processors by now. The architecture's future as a mainstream chip was delayed, if not derailed, by AMD's introduction of x86-64 processors. Intel originally ignored and belittled the technology approach before coming around and shipping its own versions.

Itanium seemed to take another body blow when Microsoft decided that the next server version of Windows, code-named "Longhorn," would only support Itanium for specific, high-end workloads.

One indicator that Itanium 2 may succeed, the new IDC report says, was the Itanium Solutions Alliance’s (ISA) announcement last month that its members are spending a collective $10 billion to drive Itanium adoption.

“[The ISA’s January 2006 announcement] heralds the beginning of what IDC believes will be the next phase of growth for the Itanium architecture,” according to the recent IDC Insight report entitled: “Customer Perceptions of the Future of Itanium.”

The IDC report, based on a survey of 500 IT professionals, found a swing toward the positive for Itanium among respondents in both perception and demand.

“This IDC Insight summarizes the results of a recent United States-based survey of IDC’s Enterprise Server Customer Panel that asked respondents for their perceptions of the Itanium platform . . . [and it] also examines customer intentions with regard to future adoption of Itanium servers,” the report says.

The report states that, based on the survey results, IDC expects that annual worldwide customer spending on Itanium-based servers is likely to be near $6.6 billion in 2009, up from $1.4 billion in 2004.

“IDC believes that the formation of the ISA may ultimately prove to be one of the most significant elements in driving future sales of Itanium servers. As the Itanium ecosystem matures with the introduction of the dual-core Itanium processor in mid- 2006 (code-named Montecito) and the release of Longhorn in mid- 2007, buying decisions will hinge on broad support of applications, particularly infrastructure software. In addition, proof of ongoing development efforts and communication of a well-defined product road map will be key to customer adoption,” the report states.

The perception that Itanium 2 is reaching orbital velocity is also being driven by word of mouth around successful deployments. Among owners of Itanium-based servers, more than 65 percent gave applications performance ratings of “satisfied” to “extremely satisfied.” Out of the 500 IT pros surveyed, slightly more than 20 percent already have Itanium boxes in house.

Perhaps even more significant are purchase plans. Of the 500 IT professionals surveyed, nearly 35 percent say their organizations were “likely” to “extremely likely” to purchase an Itanium-based server in the next 12 to 18 months.

This is likely to have significant impact for both HP and Sun the report concludes.

The ISA formed last September in order to promote and coordinate activities around the Itanium 2 line. Members come from the ranks of key hardware, operating system, and applications vendors. Founding members include Bull, Fujitsu, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, Hitachi, HP, Intel, NEC, SGI and Unisys, according to statements on the ISA’s site. In addition, BEA, Microsoft, Novell, Oracle, Red Hat, SAP, SAS and Sybase are listed as charter members.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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