Should It Be Renamed 'Unobtainium'?
executives have said in a financial briefing during July that Intel will
push back the release of its 64-bit Itanium processor (formerly known
as "Merced"), recently slated for October, 2000, by a quarter. This means
the first Itanium-based products should not arrive until early in 2001
- somewhat later than the original schedule of 1999. The first products
are expected to be servers and workstations.
is not really a big surprise - we've known systems engineers/designers
who, after an Intel rep discloses what the planned ship date is, ask "OK,
but when's it really going to ship?" - or they add a 9-12 months to the
turn of events benefits at least three companies and one group: AMD, Compaq,
Microsoft and the Trillian/Linux community.
gets some more breathing room for their 64-bit "Sledgehammer" CPU. Although
Intel has the lead in mindshare for the 64-bit market (excluding the Unix/Solaris/etc.
markets), vulnerabilities have been appearing in recent months. AMD's
design capabilities have improved (witness Athlon performance), so Intel
domination is no longer a "slam dunk".
Alpha chip gets a little more life, although we believe this is just delaying
its likely demise. Alpha can still be saved from the "great technology
no longer produced" heap, but it will take a strong, concerted effort
by Compaq, and it will mean focusing on volume platforms, not the high-end
machines such as Wildfire. (Compaq has indicated they still want to keep
Alpha alive.) The AlphaServer DS10L is intriguing at 1U (one rack unit),
but the available performance figures are unimpressive, given the Alpha's
gains in a different way: 64-bit Windows (W64) is not ready, so the Itanium
delay helps reduce the gap between hardware availability and OS/application
availability. Although Microsoft does not have a reputation for delivering
new OSes on time (at least, not to the "original" schedule), a big gap
might provide the Linux community with even more ammunition than it currently
gains a little more time for developers to produce 64-bit applications.
Although they started their 64-bit race a little later than Microsoft,
it is still not clear who will get there first with usable applications
enough additional delays occur, people may start to question the value
of an Itanium release, and may decide to wait until "McKinley", the Itanium/Merced
follow-on (presently) scheduled for release in 2001. Unfortunately for
some manufacturers - those who are key Intel partners - they are pretty
much locked into Itanium.
Users waiting for 64-bit Intel architecture will need to wait at least
a few months longer. If they are committed to Intel-only, then they will
just have to put up with the delay.
users who want 64-bit power, but have no special loyalty to Intel (or
who have no platform preference), should review the other offerings, such
as those from Compaq (Alpha only), Sun, and HP (PA-RISC).
users who are content with 32-bit computing (gasp!) can keep on using
current systems, and wait for the dust to settle.