Intel plans to offer a complete four-processor Itanium 2 server as part of a broad set of products around the soon-to-be launched second processor from its 64-bit Itanium family, Intel said this week.
The server, as well as the motherboards, chipsets, chassis and other Intel products surrounding the Itanium 2, will be sold to distributors worldwide who in turn sell to server vendors and systems integrators that sell to end users, Intel spokeswoman Barbara Grimes said. Pricing was not disclosed.
The complete server is part of what Intel calls "building blocks" to help vendors sell systems without having to invest in engineering resources to develop a whole system themselves. A smaller vendor could offer a system it might not have been able to offer otherwise, Grimes said. Complete systems are not a standard part of Intel's building blocks.
Formerly codenamed McKinley, the Itanium 2 will be released next month, according to people familiar with Intel's plans. Itanium 2 should offer as much as twice the performance of the first Itanium, Intel has said.
Manufacturing servers is not new for the chipmaker. It also offers complete servers for the telecommunications industry, for example. Still, the move to make Itanium 2 servers is an "unusual tactic" to boost the enthusiasm for the new processor with "demand being off", said Ian Brown, a research director with analyst firm Gartner.
"The enthusiasm for Itanium 2 comes from Hewlett-Packard, which will be moving to Itanium 2 for its Unix servers," Brown said. "The indications are that at the moment it is full steam ahead with [32-bit processors] at the big Intel vendors. Intel said there will be about 20 OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] for Itanium 2, but the large players don't really see a huge market for it."
There are some uses for Itanium 2, for example for back-end database servers, Brown said. However, there is no version of Microsoft's SQL Server database for the 64-bit Intel platform yet, he noted.
The first Itanium, launched in May last year, did not strike home with customers and analysts have come to regard it as a proof of concept. Itanium 2 should be Intel's real effort to challenge players like Sun Microsystems and IBM, which dominate the midrange server market with their RISC (reduced instruction set computer) processors.