September 22, 2006 9:09 AM PDT

Intel to sell new Itanium servers

In another move to promote its new "Montecito" Itanium processor, Intel will begin selling "white box" systems that can be emblazoned with other computer makers' logos.

White boxes, which are generic systems that companies can brand, are typically geared to market segments where it's harder for those companies to differentiate their products. Although Intel is best known as a processor maker, it also sells white box systems--both in bare-bones configurations or with memory and hard drives installed.

Itanium servers

Intel's two new white box models will be available in the fourth quarter and each accommodate as many as four Montecito Itaniums, the first in the high-end processor family to incorporate dual-processing cores.

The two rack-mountable systems--a dual-processor SR9000MK4U, which is 3.5 inches thick, and a four-processor SR9000WG2U, which is 7 inches thick--use a chipset made by Hitachi to link the processors with subsystems such as memory, storage or input-output, Intel said. The company added it has discontinued making its own Itanium chipsets for the foreseeable future.

Selling white box systems carries some risk of peeving those Itanium-based computer makers who already have server designs of their own and might not want competition from their processor supplier, but it also could help Intel, said Gabriel Consulting Group analyst Dan Olds.

"They need to do something to spur Itanium demand, with Hewlett-Packard being the only other volume Itanium vendor. Intel certainly has the market heft to make a difference," Olds said.

Itanium is becoming relatively mainstream, but it got off to a rocky start, and only one of the top four server makers sells computers that use it. Increasing the presence of Itanium servers in the market makes it easier to attract and maintain support from crucial software companies.

French computer company Bull is the first customer for the new systems. In the past, others to use white boxes included Fujitsu and Dell, but Dell discontinued its Itanium product line in 2005.

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