March 23, 2011
In what has become a familiar pattern of Itanium abandonment, Oracle announced it will be dropping software support for the CPU. This follows a long line of server and software makers ditching the technology.
In a statement on Tuesday, Oracle said it would "discontinue all software development on the Intel Itanium microprocessor," adding, "Intel management made it clear that their strategic focus is on their x86 microprocessor and that Itanium was nearing the end of its life."
The announcement then took a shot at Hewlett-Packard noting: "HP CEO Leo Apotheker made no mention of Itanium in his long and detailed presentation on the future strategic direction of HP."
As you can imagine, HP, which is the only remaining server vendor that uses the Itanium, was none too happy about this, viewing the tactic as a cynical move to force HP customers using Oracle database software onto the company's own SPARC-based servers. "Oracle would put enterprises and governments at risk while costing them hundreds of millions of dollars in lost productivity," said HP executive VP David Donatelli.
To this Oracle responded with a counter-statement, saying: "Just the opposite is true. Oracle has an obligation to give our customers adequate advanced notice when Oracle discontinues development on any software product or hardware platform so our customers have the information they need to plan and manage their businesses. HP is well aware that Intel's future direction is focused on X86 and that plans to replace Itanium with X86 are already in place. HP is knowingly withholding this information from our joint Itanium customers. While new versions of Oracle software will not run on Itanium, we will support existing Oracle/Itanium customers on existing Oracle products. In fact, Oracle is the last of the major software companies to stop development on Itanium."
Oracle's assertion that the x86 would be replacing Itanium was also looked unkindly upon by Intel, forcing the chipmaker to release its own statement that it is firmly committed to the architecture. "Intel's work on Intel Itanium processors and platforms continues unabated with multiple generations of chips currently in development and on schedule," said Paul Otellini, president and CEO of Intel Corporation, referring to the future Poulson and Kittson processors
To the HPC community the slow-motion evaporation of the Itanium ecosystem and the vendor bickering has become something of a sideshow. There are only five Itaniums left on the TOP500 list, and there hasn't been a new HPC deployment on this architecture since 2008. The two vendors that built HPC machinery with Itanium silicon, Bull and SGI, no longer do so (although SGI still officially supports its older Itanium-based Altix line and refuses to rule out the possibility of adding a future Itanium offering). HP uses the Itanium solely for its enterprise-inhabiting Integrity line, employing its home-grown OS, HP-UX.
Since both Red Hat and Microsoft will no longer support the chip in future OS releases, that essentially closes the door on this architecture for HPC. The reality is that we're never going to see another Itanium-based supercomputer. But that was true even before Oracle pulled the plug.
Posted by Michael Feldman - March 23, 2011 @ 7:47 PM, Pacific Daylight Time
Michael Feldman is the editor of HPCwire.
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