Itanium SIG works to remove roadblocks
Group starts with MPE stalwarts, but pursues cross-platform
A Special Interest Group (SIG) is assembling around
the processor technology which HP will bet the companys
enterprise future upon, as Interexs SIG-Itanium took its first
steps during the latest e3000 Solutions Symposium.
The SIG drew more than two dozen attendees to its
first organizational meeting in San Jose, filling most of the seats
with developers, HP Itanium officials and ISVs aiming at the PA-RISC
replacement. Jeff Vance, the HP engineer whos a liaison to the
OpenMPE board of directors, said he hopes the new SIG will provide
the power of numbers to its members to improve the exchange of
information about the new chip.
We want the SIG to be able to interact with HP,
and have a voice of many for the needs we want to address, instead of
a voice of one or two, Vance said. Thats the power
of a SIG we can collectively represent your needs on
HP was already listening during the one-hour meeting
which Vance organized by penciling in a Birds of a Feather (BOF)
group around Itanium. Steve Hayes, the director of Customer Advocacy
and Quality for HPs TCE and Support Division, spoke to
attendees. The meeting also included comments from Ram Appalaraju,
Director of Worldwide Marketing for HPs Enterprise Systems and
Interex SIGs begin as Birds of a Feather
organizations, then graduate to SIG status as the user groups
board approves them. BOF-Itanium became SIG-Itanium about a month
after its first meeting, with Vance and 3000 NewsWire editor Ron
Seybold volunteering to serve as co-chairmen. A formal election for
the SIGs officers will take place in Atlanta at the August HP
World conference. The SIG has a meeting tentatively scheduled for the
morning of Aug. 13 with presentations from HP and other SIG members.
Vance said that he hoped whatever would slow
you down in adopting [Itanium], I hope this forum will be able to
address those issues. HP cant make this SIG successful; we can
only support it. The users have to see value in it.
During the San Jose meeting, the SIGs members
spoke frankly about what they wanted from the group. What
weve found after building our stuff for Itanium is that Itanium
is pretty much ready, said Michael Marxmeier, whose software
company develops and sells the Eloquence database management system.
Marxmeier AG took over its own marketing and sales of Eloquence from
HP, a move that came just after the company released a version of
Eloquence which runs on Itanium.
Marxmeier hoped the SIG would be able to get
beyond the marketing bull, and openly discuss the issues and how they
apply to conversion what does it take to get from having the
technology in your hands to making it useful for customers?
Marxmeier, one of the few ISV members of the SIG at
the San Jose meeting whod already had development experience
with Itanium, added that Contrary to common beliefs, the
Itanium performance is not bad. We have something thats a
reasonable technology replacement for PA-RISC. I want to know how do
we get customers and ISVs over this psychological barrier [of
HP has positioned the Itanium architecture as central
to the companys success in the server marketplace. Company
messages to all of its customers including those looking to
move from the PA-RISC HP 3000s to other HP servers now stress
that an evolution to Itanium is underway.
Some part of the markets slow adoption of the
architecture may come from those concerns over performance. HPs
Hayes noted at the SIG meeting that competitors have been
spreading misinformation about the chip. Hayes was replying to
a published report which was quoted at the meeting, a report that
claims Intel will introduce a software compatibility translation
layer with the 1.5 Ghz Itanium processors a change which will
shift Itaniums x86 32-bit emulation code out of the next
generation of chips.
Gavin Scott of Allegro Consultants said at the SIG
meeting he didnt know why HP would be moving the emulation
code, unless it could help the processors performance. He
compared the Itanium design to the object code translation in the HP
3000s PA-RISC implementation, where translated code runs only
as fast as it did on the old architecture.
Scott noted in contrast that a new 64-bit competitor
to Itanium from AMD, Opteron, claims to run old 32-bit code faster.
That seems to be the biggest technical hurdle for
Itanium, Scott said. Thats whats keeping a
lot of people from adopting Itanium in the x86 world.
The SIG is reaching for membership outside of the HP
3000 community. Duane Percox, an member of the SIGs advisory
board, said his companys educational software has Itanium as
our stated architecture goal. The QSS apps currently run
on HP 3000s. QSS will offer its customers a Linux version of the K-12
apps in a few years, and Percox said hes seeking information
from the SIG about binary compatibility and APIs.
Interex board member Denys Beauchemin suggested that
the new SIG could be a sounding board for HP when they come up
to decision points about the Itanium architecture, using a
mailing list thats been set up for the SIG.
I think youve been pretty much running
blind up now, and not talking to very many customers while
youve been trying to get this stuff up and running. Perhaps
its time to get a dialogue going, and well be happy to do
that. Beauchemin also volunteered to serve on the SIGs
HPs Appalaraju said the input will be welcome.
Its crucial to have bi-directional communications.
Hearing from the ISVs and customers about business drivers and needs
will let us benefit from this.
Joining the SIG is as simple
as signing up at the Interex Web site to receive the e-mail
communications between SIG members. New members can sign on by
selecting the Itanium SIG at www.interex.org/advocacy/listservers.html.
Members at the San Jose meeting stressed they want participation from
outside the 3000 community as well as from MPE veterans at the first
HPs Hayes said after the meeting that
dispelling the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) over adopting
Itanium is just where HP expected to be in its Itanium mission.
This is exactly, from a marketing point of
view, where we know it should be now, Hayes said. You
want your competitors to be taking enough notice that theyre
sending FUD out there. Its also a very fragile time, where the
FUD could not only damage us, but the third party software
We dont want this SIG to turn into a marketing
forum, Hayes added. At the same time, if theres
conscious misinformation at hand, you need to rectify that. We have
very extensive plans about prioritizing the tool chain pieces
but now is the time to be listening for whether weve got those
priorities correct, in the HP World timeframe.