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Itanium server owners searching for virtualization
As HP announces its third generation of mid-range and high-end UNIX servers (dubbed Superdome), I can only wonder what this will mean for the virtualization community.

These large hulking machines sport the Intel Itanium processor.  The Arches chipset in these Superdomes can support anywhere from 8 to 64 Itanium processors.  The next boost to these systems will come sometime in the third quarter, when they plan to upgrade these machines with Intel's Montecito chip, the first design to incorporate dual core technology into the Itanium processor. 

So, we've read the reviews and specifications about Itanium in bare metal, but in today's data center and the data center of tomorrow where virtualization is going to play a bigger and larger role, where does Itanium fit in?  We've seen where the hardware industry stands, as Dell and IBM have shied away from the technology.  And the early adopters of VMware and Microsoft virtualization products have witnessed a lack of interest in the Itanium technology from those virtualization platform providers as well.  Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 simply states that it does not support Itanium (IA-64) processors.  VMware on the other hand, while currently not supporting the technology either, has at least been quoted in the past as saying it does have a plan in place for Itanium.  In an old interview, Michael Mullany, director of product management at VMware, said that he did not expect Itanium to take off as a volume product for at least two years.  But that VMware has been developing a version of its partitioning software for Itanium for three years.  So potentially, if Itanium takes off, VMware might be able to easily and quickly step up and release a supporting product.

If you own Itanium servers or plan to purchase them any time soon, and you are interested in a virtualization product now, don't fret.  Back in January of 2006, SWsoft announced that it had joined the Itanium Solutions Alliance, and so its Virtuozzo software became the first virtualization solution announced for Itanium servers.

And even more recently, Virtuozzo announced that its software is already being distributed with Itanium machines.  They announced an agreement with Bull, another major vendor providing Itanium server solutions to the market.

Later in 2006, we expect to see Intel Itanium processor-based servers supporting Intel's Virtualization Technology to ship.  And as that happens, it will be interesting to see what the hardware vendors will do, but more importantly, how it will play out in the virtualization community.

David Marshall
Published Sunday, April 02, 2006 8:22 AM by David Marshall
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