Oracle is extending its support for Hewlett-Packard's Itanium-based Unix servers, with plans to deliver a version of its flagship E-Business Suite enterprise software for the 64-bit platform PC server architecture.
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Oracle joins enterprise software supplier SAP in supporting the high-end 64-bit Intel architecture. But even with growing numbers of software providers supporting Itanium, analyst company IDC expects it to remain a niche architecture within the datacentre.
Chris Ingle, group consultant at IDC's systems group, said, "Itanium is a Risc replacement machine." This means it is aimed at users running high-end Unix systems from the likes of Sun, IBM and HP, which are based on Risc processor hardware.
Ingle said IT directors who want to remain with HP would eventually have to migrate to Itanium, as the supplier's strategy is to migrate users of its PA-Risc and Alpha Risc processors.
Those who plan to stay with IBM or Sun will be offered Power and Sparc Risc systems respectively, and Xeon and Opteron hybrid 32-bit/64-bit datacentre hardware.
Oracle's core database software is already available to run on HP's Integrity Itanium servers, but the E-Business Suite, covering financial and other business applications, has been missing. Oracle said it would introduce an Itanium-compliant version of the E-Business Suite by the end of the year.
HP and Intel, which have jointly designed the Itanium chip, have been working to increase the number of software applications that can run on the Itanium platform.
A perceived lack of compliant applications is a major reason why Itanium has not taken off. And Microsoft has said it will not be releasing an Itanium version of Exchange 12, the next release of the company's market leading e-mail server.
SAP also supports Itanium, but the last Itanium-based server featured in the SAP SD Standard Application Benchmark certified performance tests was in August 2005. At that time Hitachi submitted an eight-processor Itanium server running 64-bit Windows 2003 Server and 64-bit SQL Server 2003, which was cable of processing 62,330 line items per hour and supporting 600 users.
The current top performer is an HP Proliant eight-way Xeon dual-core server running 64-bit Windows 2003 Server and 64-bit SQL Server 2005, which ran a certified SD benchmark in February 2006 processing 109,000 line items per hour and supported 1,090 users.
Industry backers of Itanium recently pledged to spend ｣5.8bn over the next five years to promote the Itanium platform, with the bulk of the money coming from Intel and HP.