Looking back: After 20 years of unsuccessful attempts to succeed in the computing world as a whole, last Thursday Intel finally stopped shipping its Itanium processors. While the company turned its focus back to the more familiar x86 instruction set architecture (ISA) back in 2004, Itanium continued for another decade and a half until it was pushed to the bottom in 2019.
Itanium was the product of a partnership between HP and Intel in the 1990s, when the spectrum of ISA used was much more diverse than today’s titans x86 and Arm. The IA-64 architecture was designed to advance the exotic 64-bit computing space of the time, as well as to replace the proprietary solutions used by many individual companies.
However, the project was quickly dubbed “Itanic” due to the amount spent on it, its ambitions and possible results. Itanium’s promises eventually collapsed due to a lack of support for legacy 32-bit systems and difficulties in working with an architecture to write and maintain software.
The dream of a single dominant ISA will only come true in a few years, but it will come true with the AMD64 extension for the existing x86 instruction set. Then-senior vice president (and now CEO) Pat Gelsinger led the Intel Digital Enterprise Group at the time, and when 64-bit capabilities and multi-core computing came to x86, the company’s Xeon proved to be far more suited to market demands.
The rest is history – old reliable The x86-64 remains the preferred ISA to this day, though only contested by Arm, and ended up well ahead of its Itanium cousin in both core count and clock speed. Despite this, Intel continued to work on Itanium over the years until the latest generation was announced in 2017.
This week finally came to the conclusion that the last Itanium silicon has been shipped. But if you very much daring corporate user with very a specific platform created two decades ago, Registry seems to have found a bunch of Itanium parts on the aftermarket. Rampage.