IBM, HP Unveil Itanium Workstation Strategy

Microsoftdoesn’t plan to release a 64-bit version of Windows until the second half ofthis year, but Itanium users could see the Start button as soon as March. IBMand Hewlett-Packard (HP) plan to support Windows on their Itanium workstationsonce Intel releases the chip.

IBM and HPboth plan to ship Itanium workstations the day Intel formally releases theprocessor, which they believe will be in March. HP also plans to ship Itaniumservers under its HP9000 line of HP-UX Unix servers.

IBM plansto support three operating systems on its IntelliStation workstation: Windows,Linux, and its AIX 5L Unix flavor. Big Blue will offer four differentdistributions of Linux -- Red Hat, Caldera, TurboLinux, and SuSE -- to appealto a broad range of Linux users.

HP, whichaided Intel in the design of the Itanium processor, plans to support HP-UX, RedHat Linux, and 64-bit Windows. Barry Crume, business line manager for Itaniumworkstations at HP, says Itanium presents unique possibilities for HP-UX.“We’ve put hooks in the [processor] code to help run HP-UX,” he says.

“We expectthat there will not be final versions of many of these operating systems,” saysRick Rudd, product manager for the IBM z-Pro workstation. Although the 64-bitversion of Linux is publicly available, its developers consider it a betarelease. Since Linux is open-source and free, users can run a beta version ofLinux unconcerned about licensing, although it may not be as stable as a finalrelease.

IBM’scommitment to Windows on the Itanium workstation is trickier. Because Microsoftwill not ship a production version until at least the second half of 2001,users will not have a supported version of the operating system. Microsoft,however, is providing OEMs like IBM and HP with a beta version to distribute topreferred customers for evaluation purposes. Vendors have distributed about50,000 evaluation machines to customers. “We have customers hungry to get theirhands on machines,” Rudd says.

Rudd saysIBM will install AIX and Linux on the workstations it sells, but will not shipmachines with Windows installed. Users interested in 64-bit Windows haveanother option: “We will be more than happy to help customers get their handson beta code,” he says. Rudd expects some customers to use the beta code inproduction environments.

HP istaking a different tack in releasing its low-end Itanium workstations. AlthoughHP expects the bulk of its sales to be HP-UX related, Crume believes bothWindows and Linux demand will be great. “Our workstations will be shippingWindows betas in the box,” he says. HP and IBM are both waiting for Microsoftto solidify its plans for distributing 64-bit Windows betas after Itanium isreleased, Crume says. Vendors, therefore, are waiting to make final decisions.“This is not done yet.”

Both IBMand HP will use Intel’s 460GX chipset in motherboards. “We will be usingIntel’s supported technology and commodity hardware, so to speak,” Crume says.Intel is departing from its aggressive support for RamBus technology on itsmotherboards, to standard SDRAM and a 100 MHz front-side bus. IBM says it plansto install Matrox Electronic Systems’ G450 video card and an analogous cardfrom Nvidia Corp.

Both Ruddand Crume are optimistic about Windows’ future on the Itanium platform. “TheUnix world is gradually moving to Windows 2000 and NT,” says Crume, adding thatItanium will allow Windows to find a new place in the enterprise.

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Hewlett-PackardCo., Palo Alto, Calif. www.hp.com

IBMCorp., Armonk, N.Y., www.ibm.com