With the sun apparently setting on the Itanium RISC processor, despite HP’s best efforts, which include a remarkable turnaround in server shipments in the last quarter, the world’s largest IT vendor is announcing that at some point in the future it’s NonStop (Tandem) platform will run on the x86 architecture. The timing is not the issue, said Randy Meyer, VP and GM, Integrity Servers, HP, so much as the commitment to deliver a bulletproof solution that is production ready.
“We’ve been working on this for several years. I’ve got code running in labs, and the development process is in place.”
The customer base loves this, he said, but they are risk-averse, and the entire ecosystem – platform, tools and middleware – needs to be ramped up before the release. Meyer said they call it scaffolding internally. “It takes time and you have to have each of them test before you can build that scaffolding.”
Even once the scaffolding is in place, it’s still not ready for prime time, he said. The next step is extensive customer testing “before we could ever declare to customers this is ready”.
The end-result, he said is that he’s “less schedule-driven on this and more rock-solid, bulletproof driven. The customers are happy with this. What they want is early warning.”
The company also announced new Integrity NonStop blade servers based on the Intel Itanium processor 9500 series. It said customers will see 50% greater performance in the same footprint when moving to the BladeSystem NB56000c or NB56000c-cg.
According to a prepared statement from IDC’s Jean Bozman, research vice president, demands for round-the-clock, web-enabled access to mission-critical business services are driving increased requirements for systems that are secure and highly available. “Extending HP NonStop to an x86 server platform shows a deep level of investment in maintaining the NonStop technology for mission-critical workloads in financial markets, telecommunications and other industries. At the same time, it brings new levels of availability to x86-based standardized data center infrastructure.”
Itanium has had a troubled history which has not been helped with the ongoing defection from the Unix operating system. In the second quarter Gartner reported that RISC/Itanium Unix revenue fell 22.6% as that segment continued to suffer from migrations to alternative platforms as users sought lower cost alternatives and more flexibility.
On a much more positive note – if not for Dell – HP grew its server shipments by more than 5% in the third quarter, ‘halting a slump of eight consecutive quarters of shipment declines,’ according to preliminary market data from Gartner. On the other hand Dell, which had been the main beneficiary of these declines, saw its shipments drop by more than 14% in the quarter.
Meyer said NonStop is known for its dependability and runs the payment engines around the world, as well as mobile systems and anything that has a real-time component. Customers include 8 of the top 10 world banks, all of the top 10 global manufacturing companies, and processes more than $122 billion of fuel transactions in the United States.
The dilemma for customers – and HP – is that they’re seeing all these major trends like mobility, Big Data and cloud and they’re changing how people build applications, said Meyer. People are saying I want my transaction systems, my core systems always on, and my data center standardized, but without threatening my operations.
We’ve been getting consistent pressure from NonStop customers that need it to be solid, proven, nothing changed and to integrate all this really cool stuff around mobile,. make it easy and seamless, he said. “So we’re trying to figure out a way to do the best of both.”
Clabby Analytics’ ten reasons why Itanium servers will not be around for the long haul:
1. The broken ecosystem;
2. Increased competition;
3. The market migration trend from HP/UX to Linux on x86;
4. The cost of continued development;
5. Margin pressures;
6. Lack of volume manufacturing;
7. Unclear workload definition;
8. Customer disinterest (as manifest in the Itanium the sales stasis pattern described earlier);
9. Strategic directions (spending on unneeded programs such as HP’s converged infrastructure environment, HP’s Project DragonHawk, and HP’s Project HydraLynx?); and because
10. There is Itanium end-of-life plan in place (a good indicator that Itanium will phase out).
* With apologies to Jim Mora and his wonderful “Playoffs” rant