Upgrade options for Hewlett-Packard Alpha chip users are set to increase with the release of HP's latest Itanium-based Unix Integrity server, codenamed Lightning.
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Few details were available at the time of going to press, but prior to the server's launch HP insisted that the Itanium platform had a long future.
An HP spokesman said, "The Itanium chipset has a bright future, but is facing challenges - rival processor offerings such as AMD's Opteron have seen demand increase over the last quarter. Market misconceptions around a lack of applications available on Itanium are starting to be addressed by market leaders such as Oracle and HP."
The release follows news that Oracle is extending its support for HP'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.
Oracle joins enterprise software supplier SAP in supporting the high-end 64-bit Intel architecture. However, analysts have said that Itanium will remain a niche architecture within the datacentre.
IT directors who want to remain with HP will eventually have to migrate to Itanium, as the supplier's strategy is to move users off its PA-Risc and Alpha Risc processors.
Those firms that 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.
A perceived lack of compliant applications is a major reason why Itanium has not taken off. 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.