When Intel first launched Itanium processors, the company expected the range to create a foundation for 64-bit computing and find its way into workstations and servers in all areas. Now, however, times have changed.
While Intel has narrowed Itanium's focus to high-end servers, the architecture lags behind Sun Microsystems' UltraSparc or IBM's Power. In fact, Big Blue has flagged plans to drop Itanium servers from its product line altogether. The popularity of AMD's 64-bit Opteron platform has further eroded Itanium's 64-bit advantage.
However, in tender documents released last week, the ABC said its IT department "does not yet use systems based on the Itanium processor but is expecting to implement these for medium and high end servers during the next 12 months".
The broadcaster's focus on Itanium could be tied to its relationship with Hewlett-Packard -- a strong supporter of Itanium. According to the documents, the ABC has been a Digital/Compaq/HP site for many years, and has invested strongly in training and infrastructure to support the HP Proliant range of servers.
HP, which partners with Intel for Itanium development, recently announced a three-year, US$3 billion commitment to the architecture.
HP plans to design Itanium-based systems and recruit software companies to the architecture. HP is shifting all its high-end servers to the Itanium platform.
While the ABC was focussed on Intel CPUs, it left the door slightly ajar for Intel's main rival, AMD. "There are no AMD-based servers in the current fleet, and no intention to introduce them," it said. "They remain, however, an option." The broadcaster said it felt similarly about blade servers.
The tender documents also laid out its view on server refresh cycles. It said the useful life of an Intel-based server was four-years, beyond which the server may be used in a non-critical role. Unix servers, by contrast, may last up to six years.
The ABC maintains a disparate server environment. Each regional and capital city site runs on two or three Intel-based HP Proliant servers for file and print sharing, domain controlling and audio editing services. There are 430 Proliant boxes in total, mostly running Windows, although 32 run Red Hat Linux and 22 SCO Unix.
Each capital city office also houses an IBM AIX server running a media archiving application. In the Ultimo, Sydney head office, a number of other servers mainly provide file, print, database, application, Web or FTP (file transfer protocol) services. There are five of HP's RISC-based machines, three boxes from Sun Microsystems, four Alpha-based servers and six VAXs.
While the ABC has a current contract with HP to provide multi-vendor support and maintenance on all of its machines, it is currently seeking to appoint a sole supplier for its server fleet. The organisation purchases approximately 80 servers per annum.