Compaq dumps Alpha, consolidates on Itanium processor

Compaq dumps Alpha, consolidates on Itanium processor

By Patricia Daukantas

GCN Staff


JUNE 26—Over the next few years, Compaq Computer Corp. will merge its 64-bit Alpha processor technology into Intel Corp.'s new line of 64-bit Itanium processors, Compaq and Intel officials announced yesterday.

But the Alpha chip won't vanish from Compaq's radar screen immediately, said Ty Rabe, Compaq's director of high-performance and technical computing solutions.

According to yesterday's announcement, Compaq will license the Alpha technology to the giant chipmaker Intel and will base all its servers on the Intel architecture by 2004.

Digital Equipment Corp. originally developed the Alpha processor, which Compaq acquired along with the rest of Digital in 1998.

By 2005, Intel is expected to introduce a high-end Itanium processor, based on both companies' technology, that will perform better than either Alpha or Itanium would have alone, said Rabe, a former Digital executive.

'We'll assist Intel in developing even better processors for technical computing than we could have done alone,' Rabe said.

Nevertheless, Compaq plans to release AlphaServer systems based on the Alpha processor for the next few years, and the company will support those systems as long as its customers use them, Rabe said.

Compaq will release the next generation of the Alpha, the EV7 chip, early next year and will ship systems containing the EV7 in early 2003, Rabe said.

Compaq will port its Tru64 Unix operating system to the Itanium platform, and there will be 'a substantial period of time' during which Tru64 Unix will run on both Alpha and Itanium processors, Rabe said.

Licensing the Alpha technology to Intel will free up Compaq to concentrate on other areas of high-performance computing, such as interconnects, switches and system software, Rabe said.

Compaq is involved in several large federally funded supercomputing projects that use Alpha chips, including the giant Q system at New Mexico's Los Alamos National Laboratory [see story at www.gcn.com/vol19_no26/news/2825-1.html].

Prior to yesterday's announcement, Compaq briefed its major supercomputer customers on the forthcoming changes, and the company will build the systems with Alpha processors as specified in its contracts, Rabe said.

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