9 July 2002 Intel’s new Itanium 2 microprocessor has already been criticised by analysts as ‘not good enough’, despite the release of benchmark figures from Intel that suggested that it could out-perform all major rivals.
The 64-bit Itanium 2 microprocessor was launched yesterday along with performance benchmark results from systems vendor Hewlett-Packard (HP). These suggested that Itanium is significantly faster than Sun’s UltraSparc III, and comparable to IBM’s fastest Power5 chips.
However, Richard Fichera, a research fellow at market research company Giga Research Group, has cast doubt over the long-term success of Intel’s new chip.
“Competing processor architectures, especially Sun’s UltraSparc IV, which is due out next year, and future enhancements to IBM’s Power architecture, will offer substantial performance improvements that will once again reduce Intel to a follower in performance,” says Fichera, quoted by VNU Newswire.
Although Intel dominates the PC chip market, the company has failed to break into the high-end server market. Although Intel accounts for 88% of total server unit shipments worldwide, this represents only 40% of the market by value because of its predominance at the low-end, according to figures from market research company IDC.
Giga’s Fichera points out that Intel’s biggest challenge is to keep ahead of the competition in the long-term. So far, the Intel and HP Itanium product announcements relate only to dual and four-way processors for use in low and mid-range servers.
HP says it will release 8, 16, and 32-way Itanium-based servers in 2003. Sun and IBM already dominate the mid-range and high-end market and both claim to have an edge because they manufacture both the chips and servers, ensuring tighter integration and better reliability, they say.
Another drawback for manufacturers considering Itanium for larger server configurations is that Intel’s chips need different chipsets for different configurations, which will impose a heavy cost in terms of research and development.