Posted by Tom Foremski - November 8, 2012
The Intel Itanium microprocessor architecture will be merged with Xeon microprocessors sharing essential on-chip features but will remain a distinct product, in a bid to reduce development costs and guarantee continued support.
Intel also announced a new Itanium microprocessor designed for high-end mission critical systems such as HP's co-announced Integrity Superdome 2 high-end servers.
Today's announcement reaffirms Intel and HP's commitment to a long future for Itanium, which failed in its original bid to establish a high-end IT systems market.
Itanium is based on Hewlett-Packard's PA-RISC architecture and there are many companies that have large legacy systems that rely on continued improvements in Itanium design to keep up with data center demands.
However, with a relatively small market, compared with Intel Xeon servers, there were fears that the continued development of Itanium would become too costly and it would be dropped. This would force users to carry out expensive ports of their mission critical software applications to other, less reliable platforms.
Oracle was convinced that Itanium would have a shortened life and wanted to end support, a move that resulted in a high profile court battle with HP the victor.
Rory McInerney, vice president of Intel's architecture group (above), said that over the next few years, Itanium will gradually share the same designs as Xeon microprocessors, except for the Itanium microcode, but all other features of the two chips will become identical.
This will help reduce the costs of supporting Itanium and will make it easier for large data centers to run both types of computers.
Mr McInerney said that customers running mission critical systems have welcomed the latest Itanium 9500, because it can be used to build IT systems with the highest reliability, compared with Xeon or other IT architectures.
The latest Itanium has more cores, uses less power, and runs about 2.5 times faster.