UNIX can be called the ‘grand old man' of computing. Over the years, UNIX has driven the demands of mission critical computing through the many flavors done by many vendors. Dominantly in a 3 horse race-Sun Microsystems (now with Oracle), IBM, and HP have locked horns in this high-end computing battle.
But with the advent of powerful x86 architectures and the cost advantages, the UNIX market is going through a tough transition. While IBM is waging its own battle with AIX/System P, on the other side HP is dealing with a unique set of challenges as it is dependent on Intel for its UNIX play. In the last 2 years, despite Intel announcing a roadmap to Itanium-any discussion of the same ranges from downright pessimism stating that Itanium is a ‘done' platform to ‘it is still a big business and there are loyal and new customers.'
So where is Itanuim as a platform-developed by Intel and HP as a mission critical server architecture, heading?
Itanium: A Waning Platform?
HP demonstrates a high degree of positive aggression on Itanium's future and dismisses all the negative conversations around it and says that the platform is much more robust than ever and the recent Itanium chips have ushered in unparalleled performance and value to the customers.
HP points out the clear roadmap Intel has announced for Itanium and terms it as a testimony to the long-term commitment. Late last year, Intel announced Poulson-also known as Itanium 9500-for high-end mission critical workloads.
Poulson supersedes the earlier generation of Tukwila (aka 9300) chips. And by the end of January 2013, Intel posted a very interesting processor update, which said: "Intel has updated the definition of the next generation Itanium processor, code named ‘Kittson'. Kittson will be manufactured on Intel's 32-nm process technology and will be socket compatible with the existing Intel Itanium 9300/9500 platforms, providing customers with performance improvements, investment protection, and a seamless upgrade path for existing systems. The modular development model, which converges on a common Intel Xeon/Intel Itanium socket and motherboard, will be evaluated for future implementation opportunities."
Does this update cast a shadow on future innovations on Itanium? As unlike earlier anticipated that Kittson to be 22 nm, Intel's announcement that it will be 32-nm process-meaning there is no change from its previous versions in terms of form factor. Across the industry there are numerous debates happening whether Intel has stopped innovating on Itanium. But HP has been consistently saying that the ‘modular development model' is more to do with earlier versions of Itanium user to seamlessly upgrade to Kittson.