Otellini: Sparc uncertainty an opportunity for Itanium

Sparc's uncertainty in the wake of Oracle's purchase of Sun creates market space for Itanium chips to go into more servers

Oracle's decision to acquire Sun Microsystems has created a larger market opportunity for Intel to put its Itanium chips into more enterprise servers, Intel CEO Paul Otellini said on Tuesday.

There is uncertainty surrounding the fate of Sun's Sparc chip, and Intel could fill that void to extend the reach of Itanium, Otellini said during at an investor conference webcast over the Internet.

[ Special report: Oracle buys Sun. ]

Oracle in April bought Sun for $7.4 billion, and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said at the time it was most interested in Sun's Solaris OS and Java software. Ellison initially provided few details about what Oracle would do with the Sparc chips but last week said Oracle plans to stay in the hardware business and would increase its investment in Sparc.

"Right now, Sparc chips do some things better than Intel chips and vice-versa. For example, Sparc is much more energy efficient than Intel while delivering the same performance on a per socket basis," Ellison told Reuters.

Intel is not the first company to jump on the uncertainty surrounding Sparc's future. On the same day Oracle announced its intent to acquire Sun, IBM highlighted the success of its Power chip, stating that the company had 62 competitive wins, with 34 customers migrating from Hewlett-Packard systems, and 28 migrating from Sun systems.

Itanium chips are 64-bit quad-core processors designed to run fault-tolerant servers that require high uptime. However, the chips have not seen much success, with only a few vendors like Hewlett-Packard selling Itanium-based servers.

However, Otellini said that Itanium last year grew faster than the processors it competes with, including the Sparc and Power chips. He didn't cite any numbers to back up this claim.

The development of Itanium chips has also been plagued with problems. Intel earlier this year delayed the release of Tukwila, it's next-generation Itanium processor, to the middle of this year. The release was delayed to add new technologies like support for DDR3 memory. The last Itanium chip, code-named Montecito, was released in 2006.

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