Intel to offer complete Itanium 2 server

Intel plans to offer a complete four-processor Itanium 2 server as part of a broad set of products based around the soon-to-be...

Intel plans to offer a complete four-processor Itanium 2 server as part of a broad set of products based around the soon-to-be launched second processor from its 64-bit Itanium family.

The server, as well as the motherboards, chipsets, chassis, and other Intel products surrounding the Itanium 2, will be sold to distributors worldwide who in turn will sell to server vendors and systems integrators that sell to end users, Intel spokeswoman Barbara Grimes said.

The complete server is part of what Intel calls "building blocks" to help vendors sell systems without having to invest in engineering resources to develop a whole system themselves. A smaller vendor could offer a system it might not have been able to offer otherwise, Grimes said.

Formerly code-named McKinley, the Itanium 2 will be released next month, according to sources familiar with Intel's plans. Itanium 2 should offer as much as twice the performance of the original Itanium, according to Intel.

Manufacturing servers is not an entirely new strategy for the processor maker. Intel already also offers complete servers for the telecommunications industry, for example. However the move to make Itanium 2 servers is an "unusual tactic" to boost the enthusiasm for the new processor, Ian Brown, a research director with analyst group Gartner said.

"The enthusiasm for Itanium 2 comes from Hewlett-Packard which will be moving to Itanium 2 for its Unix servers," Brown said. "The indications are that at the moment it is full steam ahead with [32-bit processors] at the big Intel vendors. Intel said there will be about 20 original equipment manufacturers for Itanium 2, but the large players don't really see a huge market for it."

There are some uses for Itanium 2, for example for back-end database servers, Brown said. However, there is no version of Microsoft's SQL Server database for the 64-bit Intel platform yet, he noted.

The first Itanium, launched in May last year, did not strike home with customers and analysts have come to regard it as a proof of concept. Itanium 2 should be Intel's real effort to challenge players like Sun Microsystems and IBM, which dominate the midrange server market with their RISC (reduced instruction set computer) processors.

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