In recent benchmarks, Itanium II-powered servers have demonstrated their ability to perform as well as proprietary 64-bit datacentre architectures. But the flaw takes the shine off this success.
A Intel spokesman said the flaw was "electrical in nature", which means it cannot be fixed by a software patch. He said Intel has issued an advisory to server manufacturers that have deployed the Itanium-based hardware, such as IBM, NEC and Hewlett-Packard.
The spokesman said Intel has put in additional testing during chip fabrication to identify flawed processors. He urged users running Itanium II machines to contact their server supplier.
The flaw causes the chip to fail if it executes a certain series of instructions. Intel has advised manufacturers to reduce the processor clock speed to 800MHz on machines that have been shipped to avoid the problem.
Andy Butler, an analyst with Gartner, believes the flaw will not have serious consequences because most users who have purchased Itanium II systems are using them to run pilots. His advice to potential users was, "Put off any buying decision for now."