Processor giant Intel and graphics leader SGI have got together to create the Parallel Application Center (PAC), based at Intel’s UK headquarters in Swindon. The PAC provides developers and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), a chance to optimise their applications for Intel’s 64-bit architecture.
There are currently more than 2,000 applications that have been created for, or ported over, to the Itanium platform. However, Intel wants to increase this in order to compete with the other more established RISC based architectures. The PAC is an ideal way of doing this as it enables smaller companies, who don’t necessarily have access to high end Itanium based servers to be able to develop and test their applications.
The PAC consists or a 32-way Intel Itanium 2 processor based SGI Altix 3000 system. This is running an optimised 64-bit version of Linux, to make use of the 128GB of main memory, and the 2.5 Terabytes of storage space. The Altix is kept in a air conditioned room as Intel’s UK offices in Swindon. Once companies are registered they are able to remotely access the Altix via a Virtual Private Network. For more intense work, the Altix can be reserved for exclusive access for up to two weeks. Intel is not charging for this service as enlarging the software ecosystem around the Itanium will only strengthen its place in the market.
Itanium as a platform has been quite controversial with many analysts predicting the processors demise, especially since the introduction of 64-bit architecture (EMT64) for Xeon. This has pushed Itanium 2 firmly up to the high-end away from the very large two-way server market. However, the Intel spokepeople certainly gave no impression of the company backing away from the processor, making much of the fact that 40 per cent of the Fortune 100 companies have deployed Itanium based systems. This compare to 25 per cent for AMD's Opteron. It makes sense for Intel to want to chase this market as while Xeon represents 85 per cent of its server market share, 53 per cent of its server market revenue comes from the Itanium 2.
When I asked him directly about the future of Itanium, Intel’s Paresh Pattani, Director of HPC and WorkStation Applications stated that it was fully committed to the processor but admitted that it’s introduction into the market hadn’t been as easy as it originally envisioned.