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Itanium alliance backed by major tech companies

Partnership plans to provide resources to help programmers write and optimize software for Itanium, Intel's high-end chip.

A slew of major computing companies announced a new partnership Monday to help speed the development and adoption of software for Itanium-based servers, a warmer move than those Dell, IBM and Microsoft have taken regarding Intel's high-end chip.

As first reported by CNET, the Itanium Solutions Alliance includes server makers Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, Fujitsu, NEC, Unisys, Bull and Silicon Graphics; software companies Microsoft, Oracle, Red Hat, Novell, BEA Systems, SAP and SAS; and, of course, chipmaker Intel. The group plans to provide resources to help programmers write and optimize software for Itanium.

There are more than 5,000 Itanium applications so far. The alliance hopes to improve that by establishing Developer Days, when Linux and Windows programmers can get help migrating and building Itanium programs; the 19-facility Itanium Solutions Center Network that will provide more programming support; and an Itanium Solutions Catalog, featuring available Itanium software.

Faced with steadily improving x86 processors such as its Xeon and Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron, Intel has redefined Itanium as a chip chiefly for high-end servers. But Intel and its allies remain firmly committed to the chip.

But conspicuous by their absence from the alliance are the other three top server manufacturers besides HP, which initiated and helped develop Itanium. IBM, Dell and Sun Microsystems all are former Itanium allies that have parted ways with Intel over the high-end chip.

Sun was the first to go, canceling its Itanium version of Solaris in 2000. IBM followed this year, when it chose to stop developing its own Itanium servers.

And just this month, Dell said it, too, would drop Itanium servers. The PC maker said it prefers to focus on systems using Intel's Xeon processor. Dell's move followed one by Microsoft to limit the Itanium version of its next-generation server version of Windows, code-named Longhorn Server, only to higher-end server tasks.