Intel, HP Revive Itanium Server Technology

When Oracle Corporation purchased Sun Microsystems in January 2010, the company assumed a hardware role alongside its database and business-software profile. One result of Oracle's new status was a breakdown in its relationship with Hewlett-Packard, specifically regarding the development of Itanium servers. After Oracle dropped Itanium support in March of 2011, the two companies entered litigation in California, with a judge eventually ruling in favor of HP earlier this year.  

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While Oracle has since has re-pledged support for Itanium server development, HP yesterday held a joint press conference with Intel unveiling new Itanium server technology for the high-end market, Reuters reports.  

Owing to many setbacks, Itanium technology has been overtaken by 64-bit chips based on Intel's x86 architecture, widely used in the PC industry. Software created for x86 servers has remained incompatible with the Itanium servers largely sold by HP on its high end Integrity line. Oracle's earlier position to cease development of Itanium-compatible database software had threatened the viability of the technology. 

A partnership between HP and Intel represents new life for the technology, however, despite Oracle's suggestion that it was nearing the end of its life. Yesterday's joint announcement of the Itanium 9500 server, codenamed Paulson, could soon make a significant impact as data usage soars and businesses look for powerful computing solutions. 

With 8 cores, Intel's Itanium 9500 will provide up to 2.4 times performance scaling and a 33% increase in I/O speed over the previous generation. Future generations will increase commonality with Intel's Xeon processor E7 family, Reuters learned from Rory McInerney, vice president of Intel's architecture group.

Support for the next line of Itanium processors could come from vendors such as Bull, Hitachi, HP, Inspur, and NEC, with enterprise applications available from SAP, SAS, Sybase, Temenos, and Oracle, according to Intel's web site. 

The Itanium 9500 series is available now, priced from $1,350 to $4,650 in quantities of 1,000 units. 

As discussed here previously, Intel is hard at work developing next generation processors, a counterpoint to the burgeoning cloud solutions offered for storage and performance boosts. With Itanium servers back in the picture for data-intensive enterprises, advances in server technology will be something to watch closely alongside the development of cloud infrastructures.

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