When Intel launches its first 64-bit processor, IT managers can expect a frenzied sales rush to get them to buy hardware based on the chip, dubbed Itanium.
The new processor promises to bring PC industry economics - which reduced the cost of computing during the 1990s - to the world of mid-range servers from the likes of Sun, IBM, Compaq and HP.
However, users will have to wait to get the most from the new hardware. Microsoft is still developing its 64-bit Windows 2002 platform, so potential buyers will be limited to the Unix/Linux operating system, said Martin Hingely, vice-president of IDC's European Systems Group.
This means that initial customers will be drawn from the IBM AIX 5L, HP-UX 11, and Linux communities, with the largest market waiting for Windows 2002 to appear.
"I would be surprised to see general availability of systems next month, and IDC projects that in five years the 64-bit Intel market will only account for 20% of server revenues," said Hingely.
IBM was the first to announce an Itanium-based system for general release. Last week it launched the Intellistation Z-Pro workstation, but said it could not yet announce availability details.
Next week, Dell will be showing an Itanium server. Compaq is not expected to make any announcement before the end of May.