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HP today pulled out all the stops to defend its move toward AMD's Opteron processor, including putting a hired gun from analyst firm Gartner on a conference call with the press.

Business as usual and customer choice were the "key" messages put forth by HP's SVP for servers and storage systems Scott Stallard, as he announced a two processor, four processor and blade system based on Opteron. The overall talk was similar to that used by HP last week when it revealed support for Intel's rival 64-bit extension processor line - Xeon (now enhanced). HP is stressing that customers saw this sudden embrace of x86-64-bit chips coming and that users are not confused about how the processors compare with the floating point king Itanium.

And HP had some help to get this message across, as it took the unusual move of placing Gartner's John Enck on the conference call.

"We certainly believe that there is a need in the market for this (x86-64-bit) technology," Enck said. "We also believe there is plenty of room in the market (for both AMD and Intel)."

"This really should not be a surprise to anyone," he continued. "Most people in the market have seen it on the horizon."

That's a pretty interesting stance for Enck to take give his past predictions. In 2002, Enck forecast that Xeon (now enhanced) would "never see the light of day," according to a ZDNet report. In addition, the Gartner analyst said that Opteron would likely fail due to lack of software support. But, hey, that's back when Enck was busy supporting HP's line that Itanic would take over the world. You can't blame him for a vision flip given Itanium's slow current adoption.

Back to the systems. HP has come out with the ProLiant DL145, which can be seen here. This is a two-way Opteron box in a 1U case. In the second quarter, HP will follow with the four processor DL585 and then in the third or fourth quarter HP plans to bring out two-way blades based on Opteron.

The lack of a workstation is a bit odd given the clear need for developer systems.

Linux support for the new boxes will follow in 90 days and Windows support arrives later this year when Microsoft finally releases its 64-bit OS for AMD and Intel extensions chips.

HP is claiming to be the "only vendor to announce a portfolio of products" based on the AMD technology. The company seems to have missed Sun's announcement for Opteron workstations and 2, 4 and 8 processor boxes.

It's disappointing to see HP waffle like this. Stallard insisted that Itanium's "momentum has really been impressive" and that Opteron and Xeon (now enhanced) products would not affect sales of the Itanic at all.

This position is in stark contrast to what HP's own Don Jenkins, who leads HP's high-end server marketing, said last week at IDF.

"Will this affect the acceptance of Itanium?" he asked rhetorically during an IDF speech. "Probably."

HP can continue to insist that it's simply responding to customer demand at the right time with Opteron and Xeon (now enhanced) products, but this really only seems to be half of the story. The other half being the clear challenge the new products pose to HP's bet-the-company Itanic strategy.

If you have any doubts about this, consider that in many years of covering HP product conference calls, we have never once heard a Gartner analyst pop-up for some "Invent" sponsored remarks. This was damage control at its worst, and something we hope neither HP nor Gartner will see as wise in the future.

We can't help but wonder what Enck's other clients think when he shows up at briefings with pom poms and an Itanic branded skirt on. ®

Related stories

Intel and HP color self-preservation as customer choice
Intel downbeat about 64-bit extensions
The point of Itanium keeps floating with new chips
Who sank Itanic?

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