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HP wears Itanium underpants and sings the Intel song

First IA-64 workstations and servers due in June

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Hewlett-Packard has announced a range of servers and workstations to coincide with today's launch of Intel's much-delayed Itanium processor.

HP's first Itanium-based systems include the HP Workstation i2000 with up to two processors, the HP Server rx4610 with up to four processors and the HP Server rx9610 with up to 16 processors. It will support HP-UX, Windows and Linux on all these systems.

As development partner for the Itanic, HP is promising services and support designed to ease the transition to Itanium-based systems.

HP-UX is optimised for the Itanium architecture and HP claims it is the only 64-bit Unix OS that provides binary compatibility (which negates the need to recompile applications or software) as they transfer from RISC computing to the Itanium architecture.

Darren Thomas, HP's UK server business manager, said HP promised backwards compatibility between applications running on HP/UX and Intel's 62-bit (IA-64) architecture. He said that HP would support servers based on PA RISC, IA-64 and IA-32 processors for the "foreseeable future" but added that industry analysts, like Gartner and Aberdeen, predicted that IA-64 would become the dominant server architecture in between five to seven years time.

Given its continual delays most observers believe Itanic has ended up as little more than a development platform and a beta chip for its successor, McKinley.

Having (together with Intel) invested more than $8.5bn and nine years in developing Itanium and its associated IA-64 architecture, HP is keen to dispute this idea.

Thomas said that its customers in secure hosting and technical computing were considering putting Itanium systems into production environments, and CAD systems optimised for the processor could run much faster on Itanium workstations.

In fairness, HP seems to be doing far more than other vendors to encourage adoption of Itanium including laying on a wide variety of consulting, education, software development, services (anybody need a HP "guru"?) and support programs aimed at end users. To tackle the current lack of applications for Itanium, HP is launching a program called Designing the Future which will provide marketing benefits and support for independent software vendors keen to embrace the IA-64 architecture.

Still doubtful? Well HP is promising financial rewards to customers who buy HP's Itanium systems now and then later upgrade to McKinley boxes. A 12 or 18-month low-interest financing program from HP means that buying Itanic kit will be almost like buying a three-piece suite, well sort of.

HP's Itanium-based systems are expected to be available in late June with an estimated US street price beginning at around $7,000. ®

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