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IDC's missing Itanium report found at rival analyst firm

Clabby gets crabby

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Last week, we feared the worst. We feared that IDC - in a bid to tout Itanium for customers HP and Intel - had completely ignored the major issues facing the chip in the coming years. We feared that IDC's latest forecast for the server marketplace had once again missed the mark, continuing an ignominous seven-year tradition.

As it turns out, we were wrong. The critical part of IDC's Itanium assessment does exist, only it was written by the much smaller analyst firm Clabby Analytics.

Regular readers will remember Clabby Analytics and its chief prognosticator Joe Clabby. It was he who was touched by St. Fister in 2004 and cured of all Itanic wickedness. Itanium's apparent 2004 sales ramp and ISV embrace had turned Clabby into an EPIC believer.

Well, Clabby believes no more.

Where IDC championed the recent $10bn fund raising effort by the Itanium Solutions Alliance (ISA), Clabby, in a fresh report, has questioned how effective such an investment will be. He also urged readers to consider what Dell and IBM's abandonment of Itanium means to the chip's future, how ever improving x86 64-bit chips will challenge sales and how the RISC advancements made by IBM and Sun Microsystems will affect Intel's 64-bit dynamo.

Detractors will say that Clabby received funds from IBM for his initial anti-Itanium report and then got more funds from HP for his 2004 pro-Itanium report and is now back in IBM's pocket again with the new diatribe against Itanic. Frankly, we don't care.

IDC counts Intel, HP and IBM as its customers as well. The difference, however, between Clabby and IDC is that one of the firms can admit when it's wrong, and one of the firms can consider all sides of an issue. That firm happens to be Clabby Analytics.

IDC, by contrast, seems to have trouble coming to terms with the reality of the server market place. For example, it once predicted that Itanium server sales would reach $33bn in 2002. Then, it lowered that forecast slightly a couple of years later to say that Itanium servers sales would hit $28bn by2004. Well, 2004, came and went with Itanium server sales worth $1.4bn.

Most analyst firms would consider that a disappointing result. Not IDC.

"Purchase intent is fairly strong," the analyst firm said in its most recent report. "The current market perceptions of Itanium-based servers are quite positive." "Future Itanium server purchase intent is also quite optimistic." "Satisfaction among current Itanium customers is high." "IDC believes that the formation of ISA may ultimately prove to be one of the most significant elements in driving future sales of Itanium servers." And, of course, "Consistency in messaging will be key to future Itanium adoption."

Nowhere does IDC address its huge, past mistakes predicting the shape of the server market. Nowhere does it address how Dell and IBM's decision to distance themselves from IA-64 might affect the "consistency in messaging" for Itanium. Nowhere does IDC even discuss how improving x86 servers will compete in the 64-bit market. Instead, you're told that SGI, Bull and NEC will save the processor, and you're provided with gems of wisdom such as, "the vendors most likely to succeed in the Itanium ecosystem are those that will be able to articulate a cohesive message around delivering solutions to solve business problems, rather than delivering the best-performing Itanium server." (And here we thought the companies most likely to succeed with Itanium would be those that could raise more money from the French government or find suitors for their graphics technology.)

Clabby, meanwhile, does address all of the crucial points.

"While Itanium floundered, Intel has introduced another 64-bit architecture (the hybrid 32-/64-bit Xeon) that is meeting with solid market acceptance in the 64-bit computing space," Clabby writes. "This chip now presents another way for Intel customers to get into the 64-bit world without having to significantly alter their existing applications using the EPIC pre-compile method – and, the new chip has, accordingly, undermined Itanium acceptance."

"To compound these problems, Intel has continued to miss its Itanium roadmap targets - pushing back its first dual-core Itanium model (code-named Montecito) from 2005 to mid- 2006 (and delaying related functionality such as power management too)."

IDC does not even acknowledge the roadmap slips.

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