Intel woes: Oracle ditches Itanium, mobility group chief quits
Chipmaking giant suffering at high and low ends
Oracle has become the third major software developer to decide not to build software for Intel's data-center-oriented Itanium microprocessors.
The blow won't be catastrophic for either Intel or Itanium, at least right away, but Oracle is the first enterprise-application developer to fly the coop, following similar decisions by Red Hat in 2009 and Microsoft in 2010.
Itanium is a 64-bit processor with an architecture different from Intel's x86 designs and more similar to the RISC chips from IBM and Sun it was designed to compete with when it was first released in 2001.
The most recent version was released in February of 2010. Intel had already announced two further editions – Poulson and Kittson -- for delivery in 2012 and 2014.
A press release from Oracle said the company decided to drop Itanium after "Intel management made it clear that their strategic focus is on their x86 microprocessor and that Itanium was nearing the end of its life."
Microsoft dropped Itanium just before Intel shipped the eight-core Xeon 7500 (Nehalem-EX) processor, which Intel estimated can deliver 20 times the performance of single-core Xeon chips, supports high-performance servers with up to 256 processor sockets and can run as many as 128 threads simultaneously on each processor.
Xeon 7500 is also the first Intel x86-64 processor with many of the security, reliability and memory enhancements designed for high-reliability systems of the kind previously available – from Intel -- only in Itanium.
Despite its power, and the huge gains expected in Poulson and Kittson, Itanium makes up only about 7 percent of the global market for Unix systems, which account for 26 percent of global spending on servers, according to IDC's quarterly reports on global hardware sales.
Of the total spent on Itanium-based servers, HP boxes account for about 90 percent, IDC analyst Jed Scaramella told Computerworld earlier this month.
Only about 10 percent of Itanium servers run Windows.
At the far opposite end of Intel's silicon spectrum, Anand Chandrasekher, head of Intel's Ultra Mobility Group left the company "to pursue other interests."
Intel's UMG is tasked with – but so far not terribly successful at -- catching up to ARM, which has a commanding lead in the market for the low-power, high-mobility chips that are popular in the tablet market, and Nvidia, which is also making inroads.
"Pursuing other interests" normally means having to make unexpected visits to the unemployment office and outplacement counselors.
It can also mean someone important quit when the employer wasn't ready to deal with it, however.
In this case, according to processor-market analyst Nathan Brookwood at Insight 64, Chandrasekher may have left due to his own career concerns, among them the difficulty of reducing ARM's lead quickly enough to satisfy Intel bosses.
In an email to employees obtained and published by the WSJ, Chandresekher wrote that “I have done what I wanted at Intel and I felt it was time to explore other opportunities.”
Among his other accomplishments, Chandrasekher led development of Intel's low-power Atom smartphone/netbook chip and the wildly successful Centrino chipsets that made WiFi a standard option in laptops.