Welcome!

Industrial IoT Authors: Automic Blog, William Schmarzo, Tom Kelly, Ian Khan, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

Opinion: Linux May Be the Main Life Support for Intel's Itanium

"If Intel Truly Believes in Itanium, Then It Has To Do Away With Windows"

There was a report last week at the “The Inquirer” that gave us a little insight into the prospects for the future arc of Intel’s Itanium server chip line.
 
For the past two years with the advent of the Opteron line of server chips that offer 32 and 64-bit native capability for the X86 code base, there have been loud rumbles about where Itanium now fits in the CPU landscape.  And even Intel has acknowledged that Opteron has created problems for Itanium in the market place as reported in September 2004 saying "I would be remiss to say the impact was zero, but the impact was mostly noise and confusion," Talwalkar (Abhi Talwalkar, general manager of Intel's Enterprise Platform Group) said of the decision, referred to as EM64T. "It set us back a few months, I think, with the general audience."
 
Yesterday’s report from The Inquirer adds a little resolution to the picture.  It reports that at the ceremony where the Intel CEO reins were handed from Craig Barret to Paul Otellini, “A former employee asked what Intel's plans were for the Itanium. Paul Otellini said it was a RISC replacement processor, typically running Linux. There are a number of companies who run SAP on Windows where the Itanium fits into the infrastructure nicely. Intel wasn't walking away from the Itanium, he said.”
 
Itanium is running Windows in some cases but it’s “typically” running Linux according to Intel.  Though there are some Itanium servers running Windows, Windows on Itanium is a dead-end path as Microsoft pointed out in 2004 saying then that Itanium just doesn’t run the Microsoft stack very well and it never will.   I guess growing up on X86, as Microsoft has, will do that to a code base.
 
If Itanium’ s future is pinned mainly to Linux, that says an awful lot.  It’s probably not likely that Itanium has much future unless Linux makes massive gains in market share over the next 5 years.  While that’s entirely possible, Itanium will still be just one of many architectures chasing a share of the market and it will be starting from a price/performance point that is not nearly as attractive as AMD’s Opteron for nearly all but a very few number crunching applications and even those are looking very challenged with the recent dual core Opterons from AMD.
 
Taking the more reasonable route that Linux will continue to along its growth curve in the server, cluster, workstation space and take somewhat longer to reach the desktop and laptop client space, then you have to wonder even more loudly about the future of Itanium.  Can an entire architecture survive on a very small fraction of the Linux server market?  Probably not but that’s a bridge we will cross when the time comes.
 
The most interesting aspect of this story to me is that Linux is nearly single handedly providing life support to the Itanium.  If Itanium ‘typically’ ships with Linux, what would Itanium be shipping with if Linux were not around?  Do you think this was Intel’s plan when it was rallying Sun, HP, IBM, Fujitsu, and the rest to follow it down the Itanium road in 1996 and 1997?  I think it’s safe to say ‘no’ to this question.
 
All along, Itanium’ s biggest problem has been software.  It’s enough of a different architecture that traditional X86 code runs poorly on it even after some massaging.  And it presents enough of a programming challenge for software folks that not a lot serious porting activity has taken place or what activity has taken place has run into problems and had to cut bait.  Microsoft went after a Windows product for Itanium but it just did not work out as X86 performance continued to scream upward in the late 1990s breathing new life into Windows on the client and now, in the server room. 
 
As usual, in rides Linux. Our little Linux brings with it top-shelf credentials for being easily ported and for being a good performer.  Linux, you would think, is not the enterprise match for Itanium that Intel had in mind in 1996. The proprietary Unix operating systems from Sun and others are probably better aligned with who Intel thinks Itanium should be used for but one by one, all the other players have dropped away.  Linux is the only player that can’t leave the table and so it remains, as a crutch for Intel’s 64-bit server chip.
 
An interesting aside, if Intel truly believes in Itanium, then it has to do away with Windows.  Windows is not coming to Itanium.  While killing off Windows is probably a pipe dream, even for a company with the resources of Intel, that’s what would need to happen to bring the industry to the point where Itanium is running the most widely used code base.  But that’s not really in Intel’s plan either.  The whole reason for Itanium, aside from moving the industry to a 64-bit platform, was to eliminate competition in the x86 CPU space by eliminating x86.  To eliminate x86, Intel needed Microsoft to embrace Itanium fully at which point Intel could move the industry to Itanium as volumes increased and prices decreased.  Intel would have been in a nice position of having an entire CPU space all to itself and as long as it maintained a value proposition that would steer the x86 code base toward legacy status. To do this however, Intel needed Windows.  With Windows, Intel has a proprietary code base that, eventually, only runs and gets maintained on Itanium.  Without Windows, Itanium is running on Linux and Linux runs on anything which means Itanium is one of many instead of THE one.
 
AMD’s Opteron and 64-bit client chips effectively took X86 Windows into the 64-bit space in a way Windows never would have with Itanium.  Windows performance in 64-bit mode is generally 5-10% better and in some cases is over 100% better where a large memory footprint is needed, like in terminal services and large databases.  Just as importantly, application developers can now take advantage of huge memory spaces and this should lead to nice gains in the next few years as application software catches up with hardware and now OS.
 
So, I put it to Intel this way: if Linux is the crutch propping up Itanium, let’s get after it and put some major development dollars into making Linux an unstoppable force on the client and on the server.  Oh, but wait, if you do that, then it will be an open playing field where the best CPU will have a chance to win because … Linux runs on everything.

In the end, I don’t think Intel has any hope here of winning with its Itanium.  Top shelf X86 is where the lion’s share of engineering focus is happening on design and process technologies.  X86 is probably where the future is for at least the next 5 years.  Linux will open up the playing field in the CPU space when it becomes the dominant code base and at that time, Microsoft will begin to start looking more like Apple does today than anything else – a quirky old OS for users that don’t mind a lot of hassles, a difficult to maintain product, and like something different – what a change that will be! 

But in the meantime, Intel should decide if being a bit player in a niche server market with no hope of proprietary control of the OS is really the road it wants to travel.  I would say no, Intel says yes.  I am betting it will change its mind before I change mine.
 
 

More Stories By Paul Nowak

Paul Nowak first used Linux in 1995 while migrating from Sun to Linux at the University of Michigan. He used Linux in subsequent IT projects including web, telecom, telemetry and embedded projects and is currently CIO of a small professional association based in Washington D.C.

Comments (6) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Brent Emery Pieczynski 06/15/05 04:19:15 PM EDT

This zealotic group which loves Microsoft, will deserve to get sued by Microsoft; as a result of, attempting to make the OS work. The market for patch kits must be protected, through a subscription fee to prevent, the Self-Destruct.

Warren Spencer 06/13/05 04:40:13 PM EDT

Interesting article, but you left out the 'big iron' OS's that run on Itanium. If you will recall, the Itanium was never meant to be an x86 killer, but rather a replacement for PA-Risc, and later, Alpha. OpenVMS and HP-UX are where the real Itanium action, and big corporate dollars, are.

Louis HR Muller 05/21/05 12:32:19 AM EDT

I suspect that IBM will do all it can to replace the present IBM PC with a new generation based upon Linux running on the PowerPC. IBM's PC has made more money for Intel and Microsoft than it has for IBM. Linux is the perfect way for IBM to sell more hardware and services if they could have a new line of computers based upon the PowerPC. Who would even need the Itanium under those circumstances?

Vasileios Anagnostopoulos 05/20/05 07:03:53 PM EDT

I think that the initial planning of INTEL for Itanium was bull.... . It should embrace all BSDs also along with Linux and it is here to stay. I don't find curious that SGI ships Itanium/Linux. Maybe Intel should also start playing with other OSs like ZetaOS and SkyOS. Itanium is a great (and expensive) piece of hardware. If they follow the OpenRoad they will succeed. OpenSolaris has a lot to offer also. They even have a gcj/SWT option for java. Not to mention TCL/TK , Python , Perl etc... AND the MIGHTY GnuStep. Intel should try very hard to fail with all these forces on its side. We will see. Are they clever enough ??? If not , I will turn to PowerPC

rnt78 05/20/05 04:09:05 PM EDT

Intel + Linux = pprofits, that's why the discussion is so hot at Yahoo! Finance

Paul Nowak 05/20/05 12:24:12 PM EDT

There seems to be a lot of discussion on this article here (you'll have to paste the long url together:

(http://messages.yahoo.com/bbs?.mm=FN&action=m&board=4687810&tid=amd
&sid=4687810&mid=1188697&thr=1188697&cur=1188697)

Paul

@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
Eighty percent of a data scientist’s time is spent gathering and cleaning up data, and 80% of all data is unstructured and almost never analyzed. Cognitive computing, in combination with Big Data, is changing the equation by creating data reservoirs and using natural language processing to enable analysis of unstructured data sources. This is impacting every aspect of the analytics profession from how data is mined (and by whom) to how it is delivered. This is not some futuristic vision: it's ha...
Silver Spring Networks, Inc. (NYSE: SSNI) extended its Internet of Things technology platform with performance enhancements to Gen5 – its fifth generation critical infrastructure networking platform. Already delivering nearly 23 million devices on five continents as one of the leading networking providers in the market, Silver Spring announced it is doubling the maximum speed of its Gen5 network to up to 2.4 Mbps, increasing computational performance by 10x, supporting simultaneous mesh communic...
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, will provide an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data profes...
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts...
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
One of the bewildering things about DevOps is integrating the massive toolchain including the dozens of new tools that seem to crop up every year. Part of DevOps is Continuous Delivery and having a complex toolchain can add additional integration and setup to your developer environment. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, Miko Matsumura, Chief Marketing Officer of Gradle Inc., will discuss which tools to use in a developer stack, how to provision the toolchain to minimize onboa...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 ad...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
Join us at Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo 2016 – June 7-9 at the Javits Center in New York City and November 1-3 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – and deliver your unique message in a way that is striking and unforgettable by taking advantage of SYS-CON's unmatched high-impact, result-driven event / media packages.
The Quantified Economy represents the total global addressable market (TAM) for IoT that, according to a recent IDC report, will grow to an unprecedented $1.3 trillion by 2019. With this the third wave of the Internet-global proliferation of connected devices, appliances and sensors is poised to take off in 2016. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David McLauchlan, CEO and co-founder of Buddy Platform, will discuss how the ability to access and analyze the massive volume of streaming data from mil...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
WebSocket is effectively a persistent and fat pipe that is compatible with a standard web infrastructure; a "TCP for the Web." If you think of WebSocket in this light, there are other more hugely interesting applications of WebSocket than just simply sending data to a browser. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Frank Greco, Director of Technology for Kaazing Corporation, will compare other modern web connectivity methods such as HTTP/2, HTTP Streaming, Server-Sent Events and new W3C event APIs ...
With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, will discuss the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filte...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies adopt disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevO...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of enterprise storage for the hybrid cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Avere delivers a more modern architectural approach to storage that doesn’t require the overprovisioning of storage capacity to achieve performance, overspending on expensive storage media for inactive data or the overbuilding of data centers ...
Fortunately, meaningful and tangible business cases for IoT are plentiful in a broad array of industries and vertical markets. These range from simple warranty cost reduction for capital intensive assets, to minimizing downtime for vital business tools, to creating feedback loops improving product design, to improving and enhancing enterprise customer experiences. All of these business cases, which will be briefly explored in this session, hinge on cost effectively extracting relevant data from ...
Companies can harness IoT and predictive analytics to sustain business continuity; predict and manage site performance during emergencies; minimize expensive reactive maintenance; and forecast equipment and maintenance budgets and expenditures. Providing cost-effective, uninterrupted service is challenging, particularly for organizations with geographically dispersed operations.
As enterprises work to take advantage of Big Data technologies, they frequently become distracted by product-level decisions. In most new Big Data builds this approach is completely counter-productive: it presupposes tools that may not be a fit for development teams, forces IT to take on the burden of evaluating and maintaining unfamiliar technology, and represents a major up-front expense. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Warfield, CTO and Co-Founder of Coho Data, will dis...
SYS-CON Events announced today that iDevices®, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. iDevices, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, has a growing line of HomeKit-enabled products available at the largest retailers worldwide. Through the “Designed with iDevices” co-development program and its custom-built IoT Cloud Infrastruc...