Microsoft will start to come out with an Itanium 2 version of Windows Advanced Server next month but won't issue a version of Windows XP for workstations until the first quarter of 2003. Windows.Net enterprise and data-center servers for Itanium will ship to manufacturers this year but likely won't be in customers' hands until next year.
UnitedLinux, a consortium of Linux developers that includes SuSE and Turbolinux, said a version of the Linux OS designed to run on a variety of Itanium 2 machines will come out in the second half of the year.
SGI, NEC, Unisys and European computer manufacturer Bull also announced that they will buildproducts, with most arriving later this year.
Hewlett-Packard, which co-designed the architecture behind Itanium 2, unfurled the details behind its Itanium servers and workstations, but these machines won't come out until August.
Itanium 2, a chip for high-end servers and workstations that has been in development at Intel for years, will compete against chips such as IBM's Power 4 and Sun's UltraSparc line that go into servers that cost anywhere from $25,000 to well over $1 million.
Unlike the PC market, where new chips get released and absorbed into the marketplace fairly rapidly, the server market moves relatively slowly. Hardware manufacturers and software developers test new processors for extended periods to ensure against flaws. Corporations, university labs and other buyers also spend considerable amounts of time and energy kicking the tires on new products.
"You'll see the first (Itanium 2 software) come out midyear and trail through the first part of 2003," said Lisa Hambrick, director of enterprise processor marketing at Intel. And the announcements are unlikely to be accompanied by the kind of fanfare PC chips enjoy. "It's not like everyone stands onstage and has a big shrimp fest."
The adoption rate is further slowed by the fact that Itanium is a relatively young chip family, so there are very few existing products from which to learn. The first Itanium chips only started selling in May 2001.
Nonetheless, the process has begun. Graphics chipmakers Nvidia and ATI Technologies said they have adapted drivers for their chips to work with Itanium 2. Hewlett-Packard will use Nvidia's chips in its workstations.
Similarly, QLogic and Emulex, which make chips that perform input/output tasks for servers, both said they will adjust their drivers for Itanium.
In contrast, MSC Software came out with its own version of Linux for Itanium 2 on Monday. The Department of Energy's (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will incorporate HP Itanium 2 servers running MSC's Linux into a clustered supercomputer.