A group of hardware and software vendors will today announce the formation of the Itanium Solutions Alliance in an attempt to increase ISV and end user support for Intel Corp’s 64-bit processor architecture.
Intel has been joined by Itanium co-developer Hewlett-Packard Co in forming the Itanium Solutions Alliance, along with server vendors Groupe Bull SA, Hitachi Ltd, Silicon Graphics Inc, Unisys Corp, NEC Corp, Fujitsu Ltd, and its Fujitsu Siemens Computers BV joint venture.
Software vendors are also involved in the attempt to drive up interest in the Itanium processor, with Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, Red Hat, Novell, BEA Systems, and SAS Institute also joining the alliance as founder members.
Despite disappointing take-up for Itanium, which was once heralded as the enterprise server processor that would displace RISC-based architectures from enterprise data centers, ISA members insist that it represents a significant opportunity for systems vendors, ISVs, and users alike, and that their role is to accelerate its adoption.
There are actually a wealth of vendors that are supporting Itanium, said Dominique Grelet, Bull’s NovaScale worldwide business manager. The main focus is to accelerate the transition of both technical and enterprise applications to the Itanium platform. This is a long-term engagement.
Grelet added that the Alliance had been formed in response to demand from end users for applications supporting Itanium beyond early successes with technical computing, ERP, supply chain, and database software.
We’ve been pressurized more and more by our customers to bring on more applications, he said. Now is the time to move forward. The ISVs have been talking to us [hardware suppliers] individually, and we want to make things simpler by providing a single point of contact.
The ISA estimates that there are more than 75 hardware partners offering system around the world based on Itanium, with more than 10 enterprise operating systems and 5,000 applications available for the processor.
That last figure has beaten HP’s target of 4,500 applications by the end of 2005, and has doubled in the last 12 months, according to Grelet. The ISA intends to act as a single point of entry into the Itanium community for ISVs in order to keep up the momentum. In order to do so, the ISA will be running a series of developer days for interested ISVs and developers to get porting assistance and advice, starting in Santa Clara, California in November, and continuing in Tokyo, Japan in December, and Paderborn, Germany in February 2006.
Nineteen solutions centers are also being set up by member companies around the world as part of its Solutions Center Network project. ISVs will be able to participate in a test drive program at no charge, while there will also be a lab program open to alliance members.
The ISA is also putting together an Alliance Solutions Catalog listing all the applications and hardware supporting the Itanium processor, which they expect to be made public before the end of the year, along with an application submission tool that ISVs can use to verify the accuracy of Catalog information.
Intel’s initiative marketing manager, Allyson Klein, said the Alliance is expecting hundreds of new applications to be added to the list over the next few months and said the ISA would be targeting a number of key verticals including financial services, government, manufacturing, energy, and telecoms, as well as crucial ISVs in each of those verticals.
The ISA has been formed as an independent non-profit organization, with each member having a representative on the steering committee. Klein said hardware suppliers are providing an undisclosed level of investment and software providers have committed to deliver their expertise and support to Alliance activities.
Despite all the big member names, there are a couple of major server vendors missing from the Alliance. Sun Microsystems has expressed no interest in Itanium for many years, while IBM in February decided not to support Itanium with its Hurricane X3 chipset, noting the slow adoption of Itanium processors among corporate customers.
Earlier this month, Dell Inc announced that it was to begin phasing out Itanium-based servers, but while losing Dell’s volume might sound like the first death knell for Itanium, Grelet said the Alliance is more interested in taking Itanium in a different direction. We are focusing on high-end computing, we are the big iron guys, he said.
While Dell and the ISA might be heading in a different direction, Silicon Graphics Inc’s EMEA HPC marketing manager, John Fleming, said the door is open to other system vendors. Any hardware platform vendor is welcome to join, he said. Some of the companies have a part of both hardware and software, and clearly we’ll be tracking IBM software.