Intel readies channel for Itanium 2

Intel's Itanium 2 chip will launch in the second half of this year, and the vendor hopes the new technology will give the RISC space a run for its money.

Intel has spent around 500,000 system hours validating and testing the Itanium architecture. Seven operating system versions will be available when the systems are launched, and approximately 20 OEMs will offer systems, according to the vendor.

Until then, Intel is working to advise both the channel and end users on the technology and its future roadmaps for the processor. Much of that work is being done out of Intel's Solutions Services Centre in North Sydney, where new machines can be implemented and tested.

The first Itanium incarnation, which launched in Australia in 2000, failed to make a significant impact in the enterprise market. However, Christanto Suryadarma, manager of Intel's Internet Solutions Group, said the launch of the Itanium 2 is not as simple as a desktop product.

"It will take a lot longer to launch -- you have to make sure the architecture is rock solid because the target market is in high-end enterprise servers," he said. "You have to work with the whole IT ecosystem to get it ready."

Unlike the first Itanium, the Itanium 2 features an integrated L3 cache. The advantage of an on-die cache is that it is closer to the processors, which means less latency. Servers based on the processor can address a whopping 1 petabyte (1024 terabytes) of information.

The new technology has the support of software applications from the likes of IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, i2 and SAS.

Intel said it has also improved transaction processing performance, estimating Itanium 2-based servers will outperform their Sun counterparts by more than 50 per cent.

According to IDC, the take-up of Intel architecture is still very small at the high end. However, Intel claims this will change dramatically as vendors like HP/Compaq transition their systems from RISC to Itanium architecture.

"The benefit is high-end performance at a lower cost," said Intel senior solution architect Ivan Chan. "It also gives users a choice, because they can run different operating systems. The same application you run on Sun you can now run on Intel architecture at a lower cost."

At this stage, it is unclear how much it will cost for companies to move from Sun to Itanium systems. Intel speculated it would be similar to cross-overs for its Xeon systems, in which it takes anywhere from two weeks to three months to complete the porting and testing.

Suryadarma said it could take as long as six months to move systems. "Our intention is to help the end user make the transition as quickly as possible at the lowest cost," he said. "From a migration standpoint, there is some work, but not a whole heap.

"The opportunities for the reseller or assembler with Itanium 2 is growing their business in enterprise."