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Itanium fends off Opteron for slowest selling chip crown

IBM 13, Dell 0

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Itanium server sales reached record levels in the second quarter, as Intel's chip surged into the lead as the slowest selling server processor.

For a couple of months, we've been awaiting the latest data dump from IDC, hoping to see whether Itanic or AMD's Opteron was winning the slow chip sales competition. Well, the IDC numbers are in, and it looks like Itanium has established itself as the clear victor.

A stunning total of 3,250 Itanium-based systems were shipped in the second quarter. We'd say systems sold, but that might not be accurate. It turns out that a lot of Itanium vendors have resorted to giving their systems away, hoping to attract future buyers.

Cracking the 3,000 server barrier is an important milestone for the chip. It obliterates last year's Q2 mark of 331 servers sold. It's also beats out the 1,963 Itanium servers sold in this year's first quarter. That's progress.

HP, the bet-the-company-on-Itanic vendor, has benefitted most from the chip's gains. HP shipped 3,178 Itanium servers this quarter, up from 1,835 in Q1 and 2,667 in Q402. Everyone can breath easy over in HP's server division. Itanium is rising once again.

AMD doesn't have the big names like Dell and HP backing it up. IBM is its lone top-notch OEM selling Opterons, and Big Blue's kit just went on sale. But the "Other" vendors did make quite a showing. Other shipped 5,140 Opteron boxes in the second quarter, IDC said.

Most of these systems will, no doubt, be used to run 32bit code, but AMD's performance has pulled it out of the dumps. Its 64bit processor is only the second slowest selling chip around.

Since Other only provides so much context, let's take a peek back at the Itanic figures to see who is selling what.

The Itanium market is not for the faint of heart. One quarter you can be king of the world only to find yourself at the bottom of the heap three months later. Case in point. Dell sold 14 Itanium servers versus 0 from IBM in Q1. In the second quarter, IBM was the one selling 13 systems versus Dell's 0. You win some, you lose some.

But Itanium is an industry standard. It's not dependent on a Dell or an IBM for success. It's the ecosystem of OEMs that makes it the platform of the future. The ecosystem of OEMs keeps the software makers and end users interested.

Just ask SGI. They sold 29 Itanium servers in the first quarter and then 26 systems in the second quarter. Compare this to Unisys which sold 7 Itanium servers in the first quarter and then managed to sell 6 servers in the second quarter. Wait. Those numbers are trending down.

Hitachi sold 18 servers in Q1 and 6 in Q2. Whoops. Down again.

It looks like HP is the Itanium ecosystem. In a server market with millions of units shipped overall per quarter, HP is pounding Itanium rivals into the ground with 3,178 Itanium sales. The rest shipped 72 systems combined.

Don't worry, Carly, we're only a decade into this Itanium thing. There's plenty of time to pick things up. These numbers don't take the Madison chip into account. It only arrived at mid-year. The third try is sure to be the charm. ®

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AMD claims to win battle of slowest selling chips
Dell 14, IBM 0 - quarterly Itanic sales revealed
AMD's Opteron party squashed by AMD

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