Oracle has announced that it will no longer support the Intel Itanium processor, potentially signalling the end of the road for the high-end chipset.
Oracle said in a statement that Intel's management had made it clear that their strategic focus was on the x86 microprocessor family, and that Itanium is nearing the end of its life. Oracle also questioned whether HP would continue to use the chips in its systems.
"Both Microsoft and RedHat have already stopped developing software for Itanium. HP chief executive Léo Apotheker made no mention of Itanium in his long and detailed presentation on the future strategic direction of HP," Oracle noted.
"Oracle will continue to provide customers with support for existing versions of Oracle software products that already run on Itanium."
However, Intel quickly issued a counter statement which rubbished claims that the Itanium processor is reaching the end of its shelf life.
"Intel's work on Intel Itanium processors and platforms continues unabated with multiple generations of chips currently in development and on schedule," said Paul Otellini, president and chief executive of Intel.
"We remain firmly committed to delivering a competitive, multi-generational roadmap for HP-UX and other operating system customers that run the Itanium architecture."
Clive Longbottom, service director at analyst firm Quocirca, was unsurprised by Oracle's decision to ditch the Itanium processors.
"Itanium was a bold step in its day as it was the only true 64-bit platform for a Windows environment, but it is not fit for purpose now," he told V3.co.uk.
"Itanium is a chip that does not have any economy of scale, isn't loved or supported fully by the development community and isn't particularly needed by the user community."
Longbottom added that Xeon now addresses user needs at a fraction of the price and without the need to write specific code, whereas Itanium can run true Windows code only via emulation, making it slower than a standard platform.
"Intel has only kept Itanium going due to the few partners paying enough to make it viable," he said.
"HP is the biggest partner and, as it is the lynchpin for SuperDome, it is difficult for the firm to pull away from it."
Tony Lock, programme director at Freeform Dynamics, added that it will be interesting to see how many customers will be affected by Oracle's decision.
"It is clear that either Oracle does not have many customers on the platform today or that it is hoping to move any customers it does have to another system," he said.
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