On Monday, Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP released HP-UX 11iv2, the latest version of its Unix operating system, for Itanium 2 servers and workstations. The OS can run on servers containing up to 64 processors, and, later, servers with 128 processors. HP has already said it will come out with a version of its Superdome server, originally equipped with HP's PA-RISC chip, which is capable of holding 64, and later 128, Intel Itanium 2 chips.
Twenty-five software developers--including I2 Technologies, Check Point Software and Borland--said they would port their applications to the new OS and the chip. Although Oracle, Tibco and others have already committed to writing applications to run on HP-UP for Itanium, the software options have been comparatively limited.
Additionally, HP said the Chrysler Group, a division of DaimlerChrysler, has installed a workstation cluster based around 200 Itanium 2 chips for testing and simulating auto components. The Itanium-based workstation cluster is 50 percent faster than on the former machines that Chrysler used for the job, according to the companies.
Both HP and Intel are hoping that the third time's a charm for Itanium. Madison, the third version of the chip family, is coming this summer. The chip is similar to the Itanium 2, formerly code-named McKinley, and will fit into the same computers. It will also be sold under the Itanium 2 name.
"The moon and stars are beginning to line up," said Mike Wordley, worldwide HP-UX marketing manager, who added that the chip improves security, because SSL encryption is built into it.
To date, Itanium and Itanium 2 sales have been anemic. The first version of the chip, which debuted in 2001 after several delays, offered performance well below expectations. The Itanium 2 substantially improved many of the performance issues, but came out in July 2002, a time when corporate customers and software developers had little interest in investing in new servers.
Consequently, hardware makers dragged their feet--only came out with its first major Itanium 2 server at the end of last month. Dell Computer passed on the first Itanium 2. Earlier this month, Intel admitted that there was a bug with some Itanium 2 systems, which it has offered to fix.
Performancewise, Madison will outstrip its predecessors. The chip, due in July, will be made on the more advanced 130-nanometer manufacturing process, rather than the older 180-
Overall, HP and Intel say Madison will provide a 50 percent performance improvement over the existing Itanium 2. Early independent benchmark tests published by the Transaction Processing Performance Council already indicate that HP servers rank up in the same league as the top systems in different categories from IBM or NEC.
These benchmark results may in turn begin to drive sales. Dell has said it will come out with Madison Itanium 2 servers.