Some interesting revelations are coming out of the court battle between Hewlett-Packard and Oracle. At issue is Oracle's decision to stop supporting Intel's Itanium platform based on claims the processors are nearing end-of-life (EOL) status, the timing of which is suspect. Oracle made the decision to ditch Itanium after hiring former HP CEO Mark Hurd, which itself prompted a legal battle and subsequent settlement. Not long after, Oracle said it was ditching Itanium, HP cried foul, and a big legal mess ensued. Some of it was resolved last night.
Ask Oracle and the company will tell you the only reason Intel hasn't pulled the plug on the Itanium is because Hewlett-Packard is making secret payments to chipzilla to keep the server chip alive. Oracle executives said as much in a recent court filing, which is in response to a larger lawsuit filed by HP accusing Oracle of violating an agreement between the two vendors by announcing back in March it would no longer develop software for Itanium.
Oracle chose not to mince words when responding to Hewlett Packard's lawsuit over the company's decision to stop developing software for Intel's Itanium platform. As far as Oracle is concerned, HP's suit is nothing more than a "publicity stunt" and is part of a "broader campaign to lay the blame on Oracle for the disruption that will occur when HP's Itanium-based server business inevitably comes to an end," Oracle said in a court filing. Oh snap!
There's a whirlwind of uncertainty surrounding Intel's Itanium platform. Oracle recently announced its decision to discountinue all software development for Itanium processors, and with the launch of Intel's "Westemere-EX" family of 32nm server chips, including 10-core E7 processors, does Intel itself even care about Itanium anymore? The short answer is 'yes.'
As far as Oracle sees it, Intel's Itanium architecture is yesterday's news. Such was the decision Oracle announced to discontinue all software development for Itanium processors, which Oracle says is in response to Intel's "clear strategic direction to focus on their x86 microprocessor." Oracle also pointed out that Itanium is nearling End-of-Life (EOL) anyway. But is it?
Following recent high-end x86 chip launches by both AMD and Intel, Microsoft announced plans to phase out Itanium support in the company's server software.
Microsoft's move underscores how far the x86 architecture has come, which seemingly renders Itanium obsolete in some cases. Dan Reger, senior technical product manager for Microsoft's Windows Server division, said as much in a blog post announcing the change.
"Why the change? The natural evolution of the x86640bit ('x64') architecture has led to the creation of processors and servers which deliver the scalability and reliability needed for today's 'mission-critical' workloads," Reger said. "Just this week, both Intel and AMD have released new high core-count processors, and servers with 8 or more x64 processors have now been announced by a full dozen server manufacturers. Such servers contain 64 to 96 processor cores, with more on the horizon."
Reger said that Windows Server 2008 R2 will be the last version of Windows Server to support Itanium, while SQL Server 2008 R2 and Visual Studio 2010 also mark the end of the road for Itanium.
The change won't happen overnight, however, as Microsoft will continue so support Itanium customers until July 10, 2018.
Following a series of delays, Intel has finally begun revenue shipments of its "Tukwila" processor, the codename for its newest Itanium chip.
According to Intel, Tukwila more than the doubles the performance of its predecessor, while also adding a "range of new scalability, reliability, and virtualization features," the chip maker stated in a blog post.
Tukwila's official launch will likely come on February 8, the same day Intel is scheduled to hold a press conference alongside representatives from Hewlett-Packard's business-critical servers unit in its software business. No other OEM implements more Itanium parts than HP, who uses them to power its Integrity systems and NonStop servers.
Intel says that Tukwila will be the first of several announcements slated for the first half of this year as the company looks to make a "major push" into the server processor arena.
According to Red Hat, there aren't enough Itanium-based servers being sold to justify continuing to support the platform, so as of Enterprise Linux 6, Intel's Itanium processor will no longer be supported.
Chris Ingle, research director fo IDC's European Systems Group, says the decision makes perfect economical sense for Red Hat. Ingle points out that it would be hard for Red Hat to pour resources into supporting a version of Enterprise Linux for Itanium, and that it makes more sense to focus on support for x86-based servers.
Red Hat said it will still offer support for Enterprise Linux version 5 on Itanium-based servers until March 2014, and will add new features to version 5 on Itanium and support new hardware in accordance with its standard product lifecycle policy. In addition, some OEMs will offer extended support for version 5 on Itanium until March of 2017, and could also choose to support version 6 on their own.
HP didn't forget to celebrate the 35th anniversary of its high-end NonStop servers by announcing upgrades in capacity, performance, and enterprise integration. The company's NonStop servers are used in several sectors, including banking institutions, ER centers, hospitals, and mobile phone operators.
"Rabobank looks to HP NonStop technology to handle our mission-critical financial services applications and help mitigate risks associated with virtual banking," said Diederick de Buck, technical architect for NonStop systems at Rabobank, a full-range financial services provider based in the Netherlands. "The HP NonStop system has been an innovative force in mission-critical computing from the very beginning and has laid a solid foundation for Rabobank for many years to come."
HP said it upgraded the NonStop SQL 2.3 database, paving the way for increased service levels through simplified software programming, improved application capacity, and higher performance.
Other upgrades include the introduction of NonStop BladeCluster Express 1.2, which offers a performance boost in complete enterprise data center systems spanning a large geographic area, and the introduction of NonStop SOAP 4.0, which purportedly offers seamless integration with open-source software such as Spring, Apache Axis2, MyFaces, and Hibernate.
Marking the first significant update to the SPARC line since 2007, Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu are updating their jointly developed line of servers with the SPARC64 VII. Sun and Fujitsu look to position the new processor to compete against IBM's Power processor and Intel's Itanium chip. To help them do that, SPARC64 VII will boast four cores clocked at 2.4GHz or 2.5GHz, with each core sporting two instructional threads for a total of eight per chip, and 6MB of L2 cache. SPARC64 VII will also see a die shrink from 90nm to 65nm.
With an estimated $4 billion to go around in the high-end Unix business, Sun has struggled against IBM and HP, and has had to cut employees in an attempt to offset some of the losses. Even so, Sun and Fujitsu will revamp several of their systems to support the quad-core SPARC VII, including two midrange, rack-mount systems -- the M4000 and the M5000 -- both of which support up to four and eight dual- or quad-core processors respectively. Starting price of the M4000 with a quad-core SPARC VII will check in at just under $35,000.