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HP-Intel Itanium Design Team Is Breaking Up

Hewlett-Packard is easing out of its partnership with Intel in the design of the Itanium processor. Details of the breakup are scheduled to be spelled out soon.

Hewlett-Packard is easing out of its partnership with Intel in the design of the Itanium processor and details of the breakup are scheduled to be spelled out in greater detail soon.

Earlier this month, Intel said it would hire HP's Intel Itanium processor team based in Fort Collins, Colo. in a deal that calls for Itanium processor design to be carried out by Intel. At the same time, HP said it would invest more than $3 billion on its Itanium 2-based Integrity servers.

Various published reports Tuesday said Intel intends to spell out details of the new Itanium design arrangement this Thursday. Several attempts to reach Intel for comment were unsuccessful.

Asked to analyze the latest development, Terry Shannon, consultant and publisher of Shannon Knows High Performance Computing, said: "This is not the death of the Itanium. Other vendors were leery of the Itanium because of the tight relationship between HP and Intel. That's no longer an issue."

Shannon said a few hundred long-time HP employees from the Fort Collins operations have already received their Intel badges. "These were good HP people," he said. "They now belong to Intel."

The Itanium has a long and stormy history. It began a decade ago as the two firms teamed up to build a powerful 64-bit machine to compete with Digital Equipment's Alpha processor and the Power PC, jointly built initially by IBM and Motorola. Motorola left the Power PC program years ago and the Alpha fizzled when Digital Equipment was acquired by Compaq Computer.

Shannon said the Fort Collins design team deserves credit for "fixing" the Itanium 1 and launching the Itanium 2. Shannon noted that the Itanium has been much maligned, but said much of the criticism was unjustified. "The Itanium was the fastest computer in the world for two weeks," Shannon said, observing that the Itanium-based Superdome computer led the supercomputer sweepstakes for a short period before being beaten by an IBM supercomputer configuration.

Shannon pointed to SGI's Altix supercomputers " built around Itanium processors " as an example of a vendor making good use of the Itanium. He believes there are 45 to 50 OEM customers for the Itanium, and he suspects that number will grow once other OEMs realize that HP is no longer part of the Itanium design team.

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