The Itanium 2 processor, like the Reduced Instruction Set Computing (Risc) chips it will compete with, is a 64-bit processor, meaning it can address data in chunks that are 64 bits wide.
The chips process roughly twice as much data and address larger amounts of memory than Intel's 32-bit Pentium 4 and Xeon processors, making Itanium 2 suitable for running large databases and other enterprise applications.
However the new processor design means that software vendors must rewrite operating systems and applications in order to take advantage of the increased performance available.
ERP giant SAP anticipates some of its supply chain management products could benefit from the additional memory provided by the 64-bit platform. The software can make use of an "in-memory database", where all the data required by the application is stored directly in memory, rather than on disc, to improve performance.
The same is true with Baan, which can take advantage of the extended memory within the planning and scheduler modules of its supply chain applications.
Software support for 64-bit Itanium 2:
Microsoft - is offering a commercial version of Windows for the first Itanium chip last year, and later this month will deliver Windows Advanced Server Limited Edition 2.1, which is tuned for Itanium 2. When the Windows .net Server products ship, two 64-bit versions will be offered for Itanium 2 - Windows .net Enterprise Server, for systems with up to eight processors and 64Gbytes of memory, and Windows .net Datacenter Server, for systems with up to 64 processors and 128Gbytes of memory. Microsoft also expects to release a 64-bit version of its SQL Server database at the same time as the .net Server family, a Microsoft spokeswoman said; that product is currently in beta. Information is at www.microsoft.com/sql/evaluation/64bit/default.asp
Hewlett-Packard - announced the availability of its HP-UX operating system for Itanium 2, along with versions of Windows Server Management, Linux Server Management, and its OpenView systems management products. Versions of its OpenVMS and Non Stop Kernel operating systems are in the works, the company said.
Linux - Red Hat Software, SuSE Linux, TurboLinux, Caldera and MSC Software have all released versions of their open source operating systems for Itanium 2.
IBM - built a version of its DB2 database for Itanium last year, running on Linux and Windows systems. It is now offering the same product for Itanium 2.
Oracle - produced a developer version of its 9i database for the chip last year, although it has yet to offer a commercial product. It expects to have a production release of Oracle9i database available for Itanium 2 by the end of November, for Windows, Linux and HP-UX.
BEA Systems - plans to have a version of its application server ready for Itanium 2 by the end of the year for HP-UX, Linux and Windows. It is also tuning its recently acquired JRocket Java Virtual machine for Itanium 2.
SAP - announced its first customer using SAP R/3 on Itanium at this year's CeBit trade show in March and plans to have some of its ERP products available for Itanium 2 later this year. It hopes to offer an Itanium 2 version of its supply chain management software by the end of the third quarter.
Baan - has tuned some of its enterprise applications for Itanium, but believes not all of them will benefit from the new chip design.