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IBM to Intel:'We Won't Support Itanium' 'We Won't. We Won't. We Won't. And You Can't Make Us'

IBM to Intel:'We Won't Support Itanium' 'We Won't. We Won't. We Won't. And You Can't Make Us'

IBM is making all sorts of noises about not wanting to support Itanium 2.

Intel thinks IBM has a repeatedly postponed Itanium announcement (apparently the x450) scheduled for later this month.

IBM says it doesn't - even if it could wheel out a 16-way Itanium 2 machine if it wanted to.

But IBM says it's not about to make a market for Itanium.

It says it's not going to move a muscle or commit to Itanium 2 until there's demand and there are more than the current 300 apps for the thing.

It says it's not about to support Itanium machines - "Do you realize how expensive it is to support these things in 160 countries and 100 languages?" - although it may make its Itanium widgetry available on special bid. Or maybe it already has. It's not sure. It's apparently been supplying Intel-built two-way Itanium 2 white boxes to interested customers.

It mumbles something about its Itanium support being sought to validate HP's strategy of shamelessly falling into Itanium's arms.

Intel asks whether IBM means it will snub (a) Itanium forever, (b) just the current McKinley Itanium 2 or (c) the entire Itanium 2 line - McKinley, Madison, Madison 9MB and any follow-ons they extend the brand to or if it's just a matter of Microsoft .NET and software maturity.

IBM basically indicates it's for the duration or until the ceiling lifts on the issues it ticked off.

IBM figures it's doing a bang-up business in Xeon machines - its Intel servers were up a reported 14% year-over-year in Q4 (CSN No 485) - and can't understand how Itanium will help.

Itanium isn't an industry standard and offers little in the way of backward-compatibility to the Xeon. It requires a "fork lift," IBM keeps saying. And if it has to "fork lift" its customers, it might as well fork lift them to its own proprietary Power RISC chip.

IBM says it likes AMD's hybrid 32/64-bit Opteron idea. It would dearly love to know if Intel will productize Yamhill, its unconfirmed Opteron knockoff, to counter Opteron.

Intel, which is believed to have spent billions getting Itanium this far and hopes it buries IBM's Power chip and Sun's Sparc chip, says it won't productize Yamhill for IBM.

Bearing with the uncertainty, IBM says it could have dual Opteron-Yamhill lines if it came to that. It also says if it was going to go with Opteron it would want to do it itself even though it could simply OEM Opteron boxes off of Newisys, the Opteron-dedicated start-up founded by a bunch of ex-IBM folks, like now - saving itself months of development. It's had Newisys machines in-house already and hasn't developed an NIH rash. Some of its people talk publicly about OEMing Newisys.

Now we're not exactly sure what game IBM's official mouthpieces, who rung up and volunteered all this, is playing but - and here's something to conjure with - they shot over an article that had just popped up on Fortune on-line about the great Itanium conundrum in which IBM server chief Bill Zeitler says, "I've been doing this for many years, and I've never seen a time when questions this important were in the balance and up in the air. There are enormous pressures and forces at work. All the players are positioning themselves to take advantage, whichever way this all moves."

The Fortune piece then has Intel chip chief Paul Otellini ruminating that the fastest way to get Itanium dominant is to get IBM, which claims to know all about Itaniums limitations thanks to the wonders of the NDA, to "move its entire high-end architecture to Intel."

Zeitler in turn predicts that five years from now there will only be two chips left: Power and Intel and, Fortune says, "in that order too, with IBM keeping the high ground for itself and perhaps selling more chips to others."

Then Fortune says that because of the new weeks-old deal between AMD and IBM on nanometer technology, Opteron and its troubled desktop brother, the Athlon 64 chip, could wind up being manufactured by IBM, and keep IBM's plants humming, a move that could force Intel's hand on Yamhill.

Geez, this is more fun than laying bets with the Irish bookies on whether Saddam Hussein will bolt and run.

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More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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