Compaq follows suit with IA-64 adoption

Compaq has joined the list of server vendors to espouse the benefits of Itanium following its decision to consolidate its entire 64-bit server family to IA-64 by 2004. As part of the agreement Compaq will license its own Alpha chip technology to Intel.

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By  Zoe Moleshead Published  July 24, 2001

Compaq migrates to IA-64|~||~||~|Compaq has joined the list of server vendors to espouse the benefits of Itanium following its decision to consolidate its entire 64-bit server family to IA-64 by 2004. As part of the agreement Compaq will license its own Alpha chip technology to Intel.

Compaq has followed the other server players, such as HP, IBM, SGI and Dell, to base its server architecture around IA-64. The migration to Intel has been spurred by several reasons, including performance, speed, and security.

“The most important benefit that Itanium will bring to the customer is improved performance on their applications,” says Dr. Samer Chaar, general manager, Compaq, Gulf & Levant region. “The 64-bit advantage will allow you to have better efficiency, and better response time at the level of the processor.”

The migration to IA-64 architecture — also offers Compaq cheap, mass production cost advantages. According to Compaq price/performance is a key part of its server market strategy.

“Intel is a volume production processor, so the [move to IA-64] will give customers a better price/performance, due to the economies of scale,” comments Yasser Ragaei, product marketing manager, high performance servers, Compaq, Gulf & Levant.

Analyst house, Gartner Group, also believe Compaq’s decision to move to IA-64 is a bid to reduce costs, and follows a long-term analysis of Intel’s 64-bit architecture.
Compaq is planning to release its initial Itanium offerings in Q3 this year, with broad availability early in Q4.

But the vendor’s migration to IA-64 will not be fully integrated until the introduction of the Madison, the third generation of IA-64.

The transitional period will enable Intel and Compaq engineers to work together integrating the Alpha technology into the Intel Itanium offerings.

Compaq is keen to stress the importance of its background and experience in developing high end and “proven” technologies with its Tru64 and NonStop Kernel platforms.

The vendor is also heavily touting a wealth of applications as a key selling point. “The Tru64 and NonStop Kernel porting to the [Itaniun] chip will bring a wealth of applications to that specific platform,” says Chaar.

Gartner Group has underlined the importance of a quick and smooth transition for Compaq to counter any potential fall in Unix server revenues and to win over its existing Tru64 customers.

“Compaq must quickly develop and implement an effective transition program and maintain the interest of the installed base in Alpha until cutover,” explains Maria Luisa Kun, Gartner Group.

Compaq aims to ensure the painless migration for its existing customers “through a long enough parallel transition period, where they [customers] can run their applications on the Alpha and MIPs platforms or move to the Itanium platform, there will not be a forced migration,” explains Ragaei.

The vendor plans to continue developing its NonStop Himalaya systems based on MIPs technology. The first Itanium model, the GL590, will be a low end two CPU, 733 MHz model, which will start shipping in the region by the end of the year.

Despite Compaq’s firm support of Itanium, and its attempts to drive the migration of the chip, its commitments to Mips and Alpha technology will see it providing support for the platforms well beyond 2010, adds Ragaei.

Intel is also quick to recognise the benefits of Compaq’s decision to migrate to Itanium, and the potential market expansion for Intel processor chips.

“The addition of the Tru64, Open VMS, and the NonStop Kernel to the choices of operating system available on the Itanium processor family now enables virtually every enterprise/IT customer to realise the benefits of broad industry support,” adds Ferhad Patel, e-business manager, Intel, Middle East & North Africa.

The agreement will see Compaq transferring engineering resources, and Alpha tools, as well as giving Intel licenses for its Alpha microprocessor technology and compilers.

“Resources joining the Intel team from Compaq add microprocessor engineering strength and expertise in key enterprise technologies — operating systems, tools, multi-threading compilers and fault tolerant features — that will enhance the Itanium processor family,” explains Intel’s Patel.

The migration will also be aided by the source code compatibility between the Alpha and MIPs technology and the Itanium processors.

“Intel is getting our compiler technology, so the compiler technology that will run on the Itanium processor will be the Alpha-based compilers,” says Ragaei. “This means that the move to Itanium processors is as near as possible to the Alpha technology.”

The gradual migration to Itanium is designed to give both customers and developers time to migrate and integrate from the Alpha and MIPs technology.

“We are planning to support our customers, our Tru64 Unix customers, our Open VMS customers, our non-stop kernel customers, for an easy and smooth migration from their Alpha and MIPs-based environments to the Intel Itanium processor environment,” adds Ragaei.
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