Dell to drop Itanium-based servers

Friday, September 16, 2005

An Intel spokesperson confirmed Thursday that Dell would no longer be offering servers with Intel Itanium CPUs. The spokesperson said "Losing Dell as an Itanium customer is unfortunate but frankly, we see their impact as negligible." Servers with Itanium CPUs are no longer promoted on Dell's website, though a few can be found by searching.

Dell is the largest seller of computers with Intel processors. Dell currently sells 10.5 percent of all servers worldwide. The majority of Dell servers use an IA-32 (colloquially "x86") chip, but a growing number use the 64-bit Intel Xeon. Sales of Itanium servers have been very poor; last year Dell sold only 1,371 Itanium servers, up from 12 the previous year. In February, IBM also phased out Itanium-based servers, replacing them with IBM Power CPUs. Fujitsu, HP, Hitachi NEC, SGI and Unisys are the only major manufacturers to still offer Itanium-based servers.

The Intel Itanium was designed in the early 1990s. It was intended to be the processor of choice for 64-bit computers, but the processor suffered from several major flaws preventing widespread adoption. Unlike competing AMD64 chips, the Intel Itanium uses a different instruction set from IA-32 chips. An emulation feature allows them to run IA-32 code, but only very slowly; users were forced to choose between accepting greatly-reduced performance and expending time and programmers' salaries porting their software. Even Intel has acquiesced to AMD's leadership in this field, designing chips with a compatible EM64T technology.