HP and Itanium Future Belong to Linux

HP has been in the industry for a long time. And one of their key industry interests is in the server sector and the Itanium architecture.

For those who are not familiar with the Itanium processor architecture, it was originally developed by HP in 2001. It is a 64bit processor line-up developed for high-end enterprise and performance servers. HP jointly develops and manufactures the processors with Intel.

According to Wikipedia, as of 2008 the Itanium was the fourth most popular server architecture rolled out, behind x86-64, IBMPOWER and SPARC.

HP has always advocated that the best operating system to run with the Itanium architecture is HP-UX, Hewlett-Packard Unix. It is HP’s very own implementation of the Unix operating system. Of course, not all customers of Itanium choose to use HP-UX. Other options have included Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Oracle Solaris (previously Sun Microsystems) and Microsoft Windows Server. And all three of those companies have since announced that future versions of the aforementioned operating systems will no longer support the Itanium architecture.

Reports on the topic suggest that the long-term future of the Itanium series was in doubt. And that was seemingly also the view of the other big three software companies which prompted the announcement.

Despite HP launching a legal challenge to Oracle, it seems that HP have accepted the fate of Itanium and have announced plans of their own to implement a new x86 Linux based setup, which will also be certified for Red Hat Linux Enterprise 6.

HP did reiterate that the company will continue to support current Itanium systems long into the future. But to date, there has been no official announcement of any plans to discontinue Itanium development. But speculation and facts all point to an eventual phase-out of Itanium hardware and HP-UX.

Although other companies still have high-end enterprise and performance servers running the Unix operating system, it does raise the question of whether Unix has a long-term future in the enterprise server sector. My view is that it does and despite the recent announcement from HP to shift architectures and operating systems bases, there’s still strong life support for Unix from lots of other areas in the industry.

HP executives themselves have claimed that the change will take quite some time to bring all of the features of HP-UX over to their Linux system. HP-UX has a rich history of almost 30 years. And HP has also acknowledged that Linux is not anywhere near as mature as Unix.

We’d really like to know your thoughts on this topic and would love to hear from people who work in the server sector. Post your thoughts in the comments section below.