Intel claims Itanium headway in Asia

Company's server chief insists chipmaker has made traction in Itanium deployment across the region, despite a growing mainframe market.

Intel claims its Itanium architecture is making headway in emerging Asian markets--this, despite the growing deployment of IBM's mainframes.

Speaking to ZDNet Asia in an interview last week, Kirk Skaugen, vice president and general manager at Intel's server platform group, said the chipmaker has 150 customers in the pipeline that are "seriously investigating moving off the mainframe onto the Itanium architecture".

"The only mainframe company which hasn't [supported] Itanium is IBM," Skaugen said, and that over 12 mainframe operating systems (OSes) are currently supported on Itanium platform, including GCOS from Bull and eCos from NEC. "Every other mainframe operating system is ported over [to Itanium]," he said.

According to Skaugen, such platform migration would allow customers with mainframe environments to run their OSes in a virtualized environment on Itanium systems. "If you have a legacy mainframe application, you can run it on a virtual partition," he said. "For server consolidation, this is very appealing and we see a strong pipeline."

More importantly, Itanium is aimed at "mainframe modernization, not mainframe replacement", Skaugen said, noting that mainframe customers can continue to run existing mainframe applications alongside new ones running on Windows and Linux.

Notwithstanding, the mainframe market has been growing steadily in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, according to IDC numbers. In 2005, 126 mainframes were shipped across the region, said the research house, and this number is expected to increase to 184 by 2010.

IDC also expects total mainframe revenues to increase from US$377 million in 2005, to US$387 million by 2010.

William Wu, Intel Asia's regional platform marketing manager, noted that it would take time for mainframe customers to completely move to the Itanium platform. "A company that buys a mainframe will continue to use it for the next five to 10 years," Wu said. "We just need to hit the [end of the] cycle when they start to replace those systems."

Skaugen noted that Itanium adoption among mainframe users are typically from the telecoms and financial sectors, particularly in emerging markets such as Indonesia's Bank Lippo and Turkey's Denizbank.

In addition, he said, large multinational banks operating in emerging markets are also giving their local branches "more flexibility [in deploying Itanium] because their CIOs understand they can be more nimble if they don't have existing [legacy] infrastructure".

Citing IDC research for the fourth quarter of 2006, Skaugen said IT managers in the Asia-Pacific region spent about 69 percent of what they invested in Sun Microsystems Sparc systems on Itanium, compared to about 40 percent before the launch of Montecito Itanium chip in July last year. Similarly, IT managers pumped in 47 percent of what they invested in IBM Power systems on Itanium products, compared to about 30 percent before Montecito was released.