Oracle's Move To End Itanium Support
Oracle has decided to stop developing new software for Itanium. However, it will provide support for existing products developed for Itanium. The Itanium architecture is based on explicit instruction-level parallelism, in which the compiler decides which instructions to execute in parallel. This contrasts with other superscalar architectures, which depend on the processor to manage instruction dependencies at runtime. Itanium processors were targeted mainly towards the UNIX markets, which given today’s growth in the Linux and Windows platforms are shrinking slowly but surely. Although Intel has promised that development on the Itanium platform would still continue, existing service providers, especially those using the HP-UX platform are bound to rethink their strategy. This is because organizations usually opt for out of the box solutions such as servers from HP or Sun. In the current scenario, HP stands to lose a lot since it has been adopted almost exclusively (about 95%) by its HPUX UNIX operating system. RedHat and Microsoft had stopped developing software on the IA64 instruction set a long time ago. Oracle’s announcement leaves vendors like HP with next to no support from major solution providers. On the other hand, this opens up many possibilities for System Integrators providing the migration. Some of those could be.
- The biggest hurdle in moving to an alternate solution is the transition. A big telecom provider was forced to invest in an elaborate solution to be able to continue with its legacy database because porting the database to a new one was not possible due to the sheer volume of data. Even small or medium sized enterprises continue with the existing solution because of the teething problems encountered during the transition. There is an opportunity to create a new methodology to help organizations migrate from IA64 to x86 or x64 based platforms.
- A viable and cost effective solution would be to move to a platform which is similar to UNIX (read, Linux compatible with x86 and x64 bit processors). Vendors could build custom solutions for organizations looking to migrate. It is common knowledge that Intel builds different compilers which run better on their platforms. Vendors could adopt a similar strategy and create similar solutions targeted for different platforms (Intel, AMD, VIA).
- For enterprise systems which require a high degree of availability, cloud-based solutions are a better alternative. Given the range of solutions available on the cloud, organizations make take this route provided the transition is relatively smooth. This is an area cloud solution providers could target.
- Another option is to do what HP did back 2009. It created emulators to allow code written using PA-RISC/HP-UX on the Itanium/HP-UX. To allow users to transition slowly from IA64 based solutions, vendors could provide them with emulators to allow their code to run on x86 or 64-bit platforms.
- Last but not least, a short-term business proposition is to fill in the void created by Oracle. For small and medium-sized enterprises, vendors could provide alternate solutions based on the Itanium instruction set to help them continue with their businesses.