SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Gelato Web site promoting Linux on Intel's Itanium processor is shutting down in another sign of reduced software support for the ten-year-old architecture. The gelato.org and ice.gelato.org Web sites will be turned off May 1, according to an email from Gelato organizers.
The Gelato Federation was almost entirely focused in high-performance computing space and run largely by academic researchers acting as volunteers. In about 2007, Intel started shifting its focus for Itanium away from HPC clusters and to business computing, triggering the decline of the online community, according to one Gelato organizer who asked not to be named.
"They changed their budget to focus on enterprise computing and totally moved out of that [HPC] space," said the organizer. "I started to feel it in 2007, and it was really apparent in 2008," he said.
"We had these Web sites running for three years with almost no activity," he added. "We were focused almost entirely on the HPC space," he said.
An Intel spokesman confirmed the company currently focuses on "enterprise, mission-critical systems running mainly on Unix," but could not say whether the company made a decision not to focus on HPC.
"I think the market made that decision," said Nathan Brookwood, principal of market watcher Insight64 (Saratoga, Calif.). The Gemalto closure "is symptomatic of Itanium's meltdown in the HPC space," he said.
"In 2002 before 64-bit x86 processors, Itanium was a comer in HPC," but AMD rolled out its 64-bit Opteron x86 CPUs forcing Intel to counter with 64-bit x86 Xeon chips, said Brookwood.
As time progressed, Itanium "couldn’t keep up with rapid performance advances in x86 land," said Brookwood. "There were several Itanium clusters in the Top 500 Supercomputers list in 2003 and 2004, but they are not there anymore," he added.
Oracle announced last month it will no longer support Itanium in future versions of its database software although it will continue to support existing Itanium users. The move was widely seen as a competitive blast against Hewlett-Packard that co-developed Itanium with Intel and is the major system vendor using the architecture.
Intel reiterated its support for Itanium in briefings on the launch of the Xeon E7 processor which Intel said rivals Itanium in performance and reliability. At ISSCC, Intel detailed the Poulson version of Itanium due to ship in 2012 and said it is working on a follow on called Kittson. The $4 billion annual business in Itanium systems is significant but dwarfed by a $30 billion business in Xeon servers.
The Gelato group served to "exchanged ideas, encourage each other [and help] people get direct access to researchers at HP and Intel for information about [Itanium] systems and compilers.
On its Web site, the group defines its mission as enabling Linux-based Intel Itanium computing solutions for academic, government and industrial research. Its Web site lists about 40 Gelato leaders, almost entirely academics from China, Europe, South America and the U.S. along with a handful of representatives from Hewlett-Packard, Intel and SGI.
Gelato maintained at least three working groups including one on compilers and another on Linux utilities. HP, Intel and SGI were Gelato sponsors.
The group hosted a three-day developer conference in Silicon Valley in 2007 that hosted a keynote speaker from Oracle. It also hosted a 2006 event in Singapore.