The news that Intel has delayed release of the latest Itanium processor, codenamed Tukwila, will doubtless provide yet more ammunition for those keen to mock its progress.
Long dubbed Itanic by cynics and anti-Intel factions, Itanium has always suffered by comparison to the volumes generated by other Intel chip lines, and when compared to the forecasts of another computing era.
The analyst firm IDC famously suggested in 1998 that sales of Itanium systems would be worth $38bn by 2001, having assumed that Itanium would be an evolutionary upgrade that would create an industry standard for high-end servers. That number was subsequently revised downwards several times to reflect the emerging fact that Itanium would never be another Pentium, but would instead become a niche, top-end offering.
Scale-out architectures have emerged as the dominant force in datacentre computing but that does not mean Itanium should be judged entirely a flop. In fact, when compared to peers like IBM Power and Sun Sparc, it has performed competitively and has secured a prominent role high-performance computing and other specialist tasks.
Itanium is coming up to the 20th anniversary of the original development of the underlying EPIC architecture. It hasn’t grown up to be the shining star that many thought it would and it hasn’t been helped by a stream of product delays, but there again, it is still around, driving some of the most challenging compute tasks in the world.