Fujitsu is set to launch a new line of multiprocessor servers based on Intel's Itanium 2 processor. The new line, called PrimeQuest, will be unveiled at a press conference in San Francisco currently scheduled for 5 April.

The PrimeQuest products will be Fujitsu's first high-end Itanium servers. The company currently sells Primergy servers with as many as four Itanium processors, but will expand its product line to include servers with between eight and 64 Itanium processors with the launch of PrimeQuest.

According to sources, Fujitsu's first two PrimeQuest systems will be the PrimeQuest 480, a 32-processor system that will ship with as much as 1,024GB of memory, and the PrimeQuest 440, which will house as many as 16 processors and 512GB of memory. Both systems will initially ship with the 1.6 GHz and 1.5 GHz versions of Intel's "Madison 9M" Itanium 2 processors.

The company declined to comment on specific PrimeQuest servers or the April launch date. But Fujitsu has devoted significant resources to building larger Itanium servers, said Jon Rodriguez, a senior product manager with Fujitsu. Approximately 100 engineers helped to build the new servers, which will run both the Windows and Linux operating systems, he said.

"There's a lot of potential on the Linux side of the business, and we want to be a leader bringing mission critical type features to a Linux environment," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said the company's forthcoming high-end servers will be divided into as many as 16 partitions, each of which could be operated as if it were an independent server system. Fujitsu has developed a number of high-availability features for the new servers as well as its own "crossbar-type" interconnect to link the processors in the system, he said.

Fujitsu expects to ship a 64-way Itanium server in 2005, Rodriguez said.

The PrimeQuest systems look promising for departments that are looking to run commercial applications, like computer-aided engineering software on systems with very large amounts of memory, said Scott Studham, chief technology officer with the Center for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "It is a good fit for ... the Boeings and Nissans of the world," he said. "Power and Itanium are the current leading-edge microprocessors for this space."

Fujitsu's launch comes just weeks after IBM IBM back off its Itanium investment, electing to drop support for the microprocessor with its next-generation X3 chipset architecture. IBM has, of late, been promoting Xeon as its processor of choice for Intel systems, and has said it will begin shipping a new 32-way Xeon system in the first half of this year.

Sales of Itanium systems have not lived up to initial expectations, and analyst have seen IBM's move as a response to lacklustre demand for the architecture.

Still, Fujitsu remains comfortable with its decision to invest in Itanium, Rodriguez said. "Nobody questions that the Itanium processor has excellent performance if you have 64-bit applications," he said. "We still think there is a value and performance proposition in creating an Itanium system."