Last week’s announcement of Compaq’s abandonment of the Alpha chip for Intel’s Itanium caught the New Zealand arm of the company unawares.
Just a few days before the announcement, Compaq held a briefing for Computerworld in which the Alpha server was mentioned as a key part of the company’s product line.
Compaq NZ first heard of the switch on June 25, the day the US parent revealed it publicly, says Mike Hill, director of its enterprise solutions and service group.
“Obviously, it’s something that has been worked on for some time because it’s a very complex agreement, but it was kept within a very tight circle of executives until the announcement.”
Because of the secrecy, the news “caught a lot of people unawares”, says Hill. However, Compaq NZ has been in close consultation with Alpha server customers since the announcement, he says and reaction so far “has been uniformly positive”.
Meanwhile, Intel Australia and New Zealand head David Bolt is resisting the opportunity to gloat at the end of processor competition with Compaq. “It’s commonsense for both companies,” he says. Compaq has engineers who can usefully switch their efforts to Itanium development, he says.
The move signals the “coalescing” of the industry around certain architectures, says Bolt.
Compaq currently offers high-end servers based on Intel, Alpha and MIPS processor architectures. Compaq boss Michael Capellas says the plan is to standardise on Itanium. “We are definitely looking at a common server architecture down the road,” Capellas says.
Before the transfer is completed in 2004, Compaq will release its upcoming next-generation Alpha processor known as EV7, while designing and building NonStop Himalaya servers that use MIPS chips, Capellas says. “There will be two more performance increases within that time,” he says.
Under the nonexclusive, multi-year agreement, Compaq will transfer Alpha tools and engineering resources to Intel, along with licences to Compaq’s Alpha microprocessor technology and compilers, Capellas says.
Itanium has been commercially available for about a month. Intel claims to have shipped 7000 systems.