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Analyst fires shot into Itanic's hull

HP users to pay high price

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A small analyst firm has issued a massive warning to HP customers considering a move off of PA-RISC-based servers and onto Intel's Itanic-powered systems, saying some users may be in for a painful migration.

Clabby Analytics has burrowed down into the nitty-gritty aspects of a move to Intel's 64bit Itanium chip and concluded that customers with custom code may suffer from abandoning PA-RISC. They key challenge to custom coders stems from the difference between Itanic's fledging EPIC architecture and more mature RISC architectures, the group argues. In addition, the firm suggests it may not be wise for anyone to move to Itanic at all.

"The primary difference in RISC and EPIC architectures is where the logic exists for deciding how to execute parallelized tasks," Clabby Analytics wrote. "In RISC, the compiler presents instructions to the processor and the processor figures out how to best parallelize the processing of those instructions. In EPIC, the compiler takes on the parallelization assignment - and uses the processor for execution.

"Why is this important? Because HP customers who are considering a move to Itanium/EPIC architecture need to understand that HP is asking them to process applications in a completely new manner - one that poses certain migration issues when porting applications (and one that relies heavily on compiler technology to successfully effect software migration)."

The analysts go on to point out the obvious. Itanic has had all the attraction of New Coke. The chip is being picked up at a snail's pace despite performing well on benchmarks. Customers appear more comfortable sticking with mature options such as IBM's Power, Sun Microsystems' UltraSPARC and HP's own PA-RISC and Alpha processors. All of these chips have myriad applications available for them, and users know how they will perform.

Where does this leave HP's customers who are to move off of PA-RISC and Alpha and onto Itanic in the next couple of years? For HP, Clabby has a difficult answer.

"HP users may find that, as long as they to go through a platform migration, they might be better off moving to a more 'established/proven/stable' architecture."

The future of Itanic and HP's server business depends on a successful migration off of PA-RISC chips, and the analyst firm's remarks don't inspire much confidence.

HP users should also have particular concern about how their custom code running on HP-UX and PA-RISC will perform on Itanic. Clabby charges that HP has yet to prove that users can expect to see similar performance out of their apps when running on the new chip. A lot of work needs to be done to tune code for Itanic, and many users may not have the time or EPIC know how to get the job done.

Even with ISVs doing the grunt work, the situation for packaged apps may not be much better.

"Intel claims to have about 300 packaged applications ported to Itanium 2," Clabby wrote. "This contrasts with tens-of-thousands of packaged applications that already run on Power and UltraSPRC platforms. What this infers is that HP users who want to migrate from Alpha, MIPS, or PA-RISC-based servers may have to wait until their ISVs port and tune packaged applications to the new Itanium EPIC architecture. Choosing Itanium could lead to long wait periods for various enterprise packages applications to become available on EPIC."

If you're not concerned yet, Clabby has a few more reasons to make PA-RISC users nervous.

The firm claims that HP has a poor track record of executing on its professional services strategy in the enterprise space. HP simply may not have enough expertise in the fledging Itanic architecture to help everyone out.

In addition, HP has been slashing its hardware workforce at pace since acquiring Compaq. With 25 percent of the enterprise group gone, the firm asks "where are all of the people HP will need to assist its customers in redesigning applications, restructuring databases and redeploying systems going to come from?"

Oh come on, Clabby. Why all the fuss?

With the launch of the third-generation Itanic chip - Madison - last month, HP gave users a clear message as to why it will succeed.

"Itanium will win the market. HP will win with Integrity," the company said.

HP's new Integrity brand applies to its vast array of Itanic systems that stretch from workstations up to 64 processor boxes. HP has bet the farm on Itanic, Clabby. It will not let the company go down in flames just because EPIC is a bit of pain.

Right? ®

Related Link

Analyst piece in PDF

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