HP will spend over $3 billion (£1.54bn) in the next three years on Itanium-related product development. The money will be spent on R&D, software and hardware design, and marketing, all with the aim of increasing Itanium's flat five-per-cent share of the high-end Unix market.

The move follows HP's announcement in September that it plans to quit the Itanium-based workstation market.

HP said it expected Itanium-based server unit sales to constitute over half of its RISC-based unit sales by the end of 2005 and 70 per cent a year later. However, it's not clear if this is a reversal from HP's statement in August, when it announced a number of enhancements to its HP-UX operating system that it said were designed to narrow the gap between the capabilities of the company's Itanium-based Integrity servers and HP 9000 servers, which house HP's own PA-8800 processor.

More applications wanted
More specifically, HP’s plans include co-investing with Intel to persuade more independent software vendors (ISVs) to develop applications for the platform and to expand ISV marketing programmes. The aim is to expand the number of applications from its current level of 2,900 to over 4,500 by the end of 2005. HP and Intel "will focus on telecommunications, financial services, government, healthcare and manufacturing,” said HP's divisional VP Rich Marcello.

Server and system software design
With the increased investment, HP plans to add value to the processor by focusing on growth in the two to four-processor server market. HP said that development work is already underway in this area, and that it plans to introduce Itanium-based NonStop servers in 2005. This initiative was first mooted last year and, in a poll of HP's high-end users at the time, 30 per cent said they could see their company upgrading to the new Itanium systems.

HP said it would continue to develop its HP-UX 11i RISC-based OS, with particular emphasis on enhancing its virtualisation, high-availability and disaster-tolerance capabilities. For Windows Server 2003 and SQL Server, HP added that it collaborates closely with Microsoft to provide a trusted and scalable platform and has established a dedicated engineering team to optimise Linux on Integrity servers.

Next month, HP expects the production release of OpenVMS to be widely available for Integrity servers, which it sees a migration path for its customers using AlphaServer systems running OpenVMS, whom it acquired with the Compaq merger in 2001.

HP also sees its virtualisation technologies as a main element of its Integrity server, and said it will deliver virtual machines for them in the second half of 2005. As previously announced, HP is improving its HP Virtual Server Environment by providing the same management setup across networks and OSes.

HP & Intel
In related news, Intel concluded an agreement to hire HP’s Colorado-based Itanium design team, to improve its multi-core, multi-threaded processors. "As HP and Intel continue to invest in server innovation and Itanium, Integrity servers become a 'must have' competitive weapon to drive customer value for the next decade and beyond," said HP boss Carly Fiorina. "Together with Intel, we are driving Itanium and Integrity servers as the premier server platform for customers’ most demanding workloads."

Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer chipped in: "With today’s significant investment announcement from key partners HP and Intel, customers can count on Microsoft’s continued leadership delivering solutions based on Windows Server 2003 and SQL Server for Itanium 2-based HP Integrity servers."

Dave Geiver, vice president of technology, Premier Bankcard, wasn't to be outdone: "HP Integrity servers running Microsoft Windows are meeting our business intelligence needs. We are now reaping the benefits of a 30 to over 100 percent performance improvement that enables us to make better business decisions faster and also gives us the headroom to sustain our eight per cent annual growth rate."