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Itanium 2 test center opens in China

Hewlett-Packard and Intel are using the new facility to promote the chip in the Asia-Pacific region by allowing customers to try before buying.

To promote the Itanium 2 server processor in Asia-Pacific, Hewlett-Packard and Intel have opened a test center in Shanghai that will allow customers to try before buying.

The HP Intel Solutions Center is the first in the Asia-Pacific region and the third worldwide. There are also centers in Cupertino, Calif., and Grenoble, France.

"The solutions center spearheads Itanium advancement in Asia-Pacific," said Michael Muller, a general manager and vice president with HP Asia-Pacific. The center focuses on Itanium development and, among other things, offers proof-of-concept testing, solution architecture and project support, vendor solution evaluation, certification and skill transfer.

It will also provide benchmarking, a crucial function for a relatively new chip yet to gain widespread acceptance. The center allows customers to test the processor on operating systems such as HPUX (HP's Unix variant), Microsoft Windows and open-source Linux.

Despite its long and often controversial history, the Itanium family appears to be gaining momentum in the market. The first version, formerly code-named Merced, was delayed several times and offered only middling performance. It finally debuted in 2001, but sales were dismal.

Itanium 2, formerly "McKinley," came out in July 2002 and was substantially different from the first Itanium. Analysts have given it fairly positive reviews and sales appear to be growing. Unisys, NEC, SGI, Fujitsu and IBM all plan high-end Itanium servers, but the first four of those don't occupy the top ranks among server makers, and IBM's grander plans are built around its Power5 processor and its sequels.

News.com's Michael Kanellos and Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.