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Red Hat cashing in early on Itanium chip

Intel's Itanium chip isn't even for sale yet, but already it's become a revenue generator for Linux company Red Hat.

Intel's Itanium chip isn't even for sale yet, but already it's become a revenue generator for Linux company Red Hat.

The company today announced services, some of them free and some of them costing a fee, for companies that wish to bring their software or hardware to the Itanium chip. The announcement was made at today's Intel Developer Forum in San Jose, Calif.

Itanium, which has been delayed by Intel so that systems won't arrive until next year, is the first in a family of 64-bit chips from the company. It hopes to use Itanium and future 64-bit chips to overpower high-end computer systems from Sun Microsystems, IBM, Compaq Computer and others.

Intel believes the three operating systems that will prevail on the new IA-64 chip family are Linux, Windows 64 and IBM's AIX 5L version of Unix, formerly known as the product of Project Monterey.

Customers of the Red Hat service, called JumpStart, so far include SteelEye Technology, Avant Technology, Sendmail, Tibco, Rational Software and Unify, Red Hat said.

The services include Netfarm, a group of IA-64 computers that developers can use over the Internet; training for installing and configuring Linux on the IA-64 computers; help with translating software to the new architecture; Red Hat certification of hardware or software; and marketing perks such as being included in Red Hat white papers or direct mail advertising. In addition, Red Hat provides free Web support with other fee-based support packages.

Red Hat isn't the only Linux company interested in IA-64. VA Linux Systems, for example, in May unveiled a free collection of servers called a CompileFarm that programmers can use over the Internet.

Intel chairman Andy Grove said a year ago that his company would support such efforts to provide remote servers, one of a host of ways Intel has changed its usually secretive behavior to accommodate the free-wheeling open-source programming community that creates Linux.

TurboLinux was the first to come up with a version of Linux for IA-64 in March. Red Hat followed in May. Since then, competitors SuSE and Caldera Systems also have passed the milestone.

Competitors have adopted similar strategies. Intel competitor AMD is luring Linux programmers to a 64-bit chip called Sledgehammer that will compete with Intel's IA-64 family,

Meanwhile, Microsoft has been sending copies of its upcoming 64-bit version of Windows to anyone who has an IA-64 machine.

Hewlett-Packard, the company that originally came up with the design of the IA-64 chips and that gradually will switch its own high-performance computers to the new architecture, also has been supporting the effort. Company researcher David Mosberger still leads the effort to create an IA-64 Linux kernel, and HP released simulation equipment that enables people lacking IA-64 prototypes to see whether their software works.