July 8, 2002

HP: Itanium 2 likes Linux

-By Grant Gross -

Hewlett-Packard and Intel will announce with great fanfare the pending release of the Itanium 2 platform today, and you'll probably be able to read several stories with the two companies saying their new 64-bit architecture is going to breath new life into the Itanium line and kick the competition's butt. HP is also touting the Itanium 2 as a perfect match for Linux.
Mark Hudson, worldwide marketing manager for HP business critical systems, says the company is getting major interest from financial services and energy services companies and others interested in running Linux on the Itanium 2.

Mike Balma, Linux business strategist for HP, notes that the company partnered with Red Hat in mid-June to speed the port of Red Hat's Advanced Server Linux product to Itanium 2. HP plans to preload Red Hat on machines it sells as early as this fall, Balma says.

HP is also working with MSC.Linux --
that's what will be running on a a U.S. Department of Energy supercomputer announced in April -- and Debian, which will be available for Itanium 2 when the product starts shipping in August. SuSE (and by extension UnitedLinux) is supposed to be available for Itanium 2 later in the fall. HP is also talking with other distributions.

"This really is a pivotal point in terms of Itanium hitting the curve for performance," he says, citing an HP theme with this release. "Being able to have some solid distributions on it will mean a lot."

Balma also says that the Gelato Federation, a coalition of universities researching Linux on Itanium, and he expects to be able to announce more members of the federation in the near future.

Hudson says HP is quite excited about the price performance of the new Itanium, echoing Balma's comments. "We really think we're at a point now where Itanium will really start taking off," Hudson says. "We really think Itanium 2 will be the launching pad for the Itanium architecture."

HP is planning to release some benchmarks today, comparing Itanium 2 to several architectures, including Sun's UltraSpark III, IBM's Power4 and AMD's Athlon XP. A PowerPoint slide HP was distributing during its preview press tour had an Itanium 2 beating those processors in floating point and integer performance tests, as well as a couple of others, but these were pretty but simple PowerPoint bar graphs, so if you're interested, you should look for the specific numbers coming out today.

HP is touting Itanium 2 as competition specifically to Sun's line of high-performance architectures.

Asked if there's any special advantage to running Linux on Itanium 2, Balma answers: "You know, it's Linux. It's pretty much Linux in a 64-bit environment, taking advantage of the parallelisms. HP-UX is taking advantage of that, and Windows is taking advantage of that. The Open Source community loves cool hardware, and they love to innovate on top of it. This platform is not a 64-bit extension -- it's a new architecture, and therefore you can do all sorts of cool programming on top of it."

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