Waiting on apps

High-performance computing users in scientific and biomedical areas are accustomed to developing their own software. But for most agencies, the availability of commercial off-the-shelf operating systems and applications is an important criterion for the purchase of any new chip architecture.

Eventually, Linux and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows will be available for the new generation of 64-bit chips designed for a commodity server market: Intel Corp.'s Itanium 2 and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) Inc.'s Opteron. But so far, Intel's chip, which has almost a two-year lead over Opteron, enjoys more support. Linux operating system vendor SuSE Inc. currently has Linux versions for both chips. Its competitor Red Hat Inc. only supports Itanium 2. However, Red Hat has announced that the next version of its Enterprise Linux, due sometime this fall, will offer support for 64-bit architectures — including AMD's Opteron. Database support is strong. Virtually all major databases support Linux on both Itanium and Opteron. But so far, there are few commercial business applications available for 64-bit commodity chip-based systems. The most notable exception is SAP AG. The enterprise application vendor has been working on Linux-Itanium 2 versions of its business applications and is now releasing some to current customers. They will be more widely available by December. Helge Deller, development manager of the Linux lab at SAP, said the company's bigger customers "are seriously in need of the ability to address larger blocks of memory," and so they've been clamoring for a 64-bit Linux version. He said that most midsize customers will remain with 32-bit systems, but SAP has designed the upgrade to allow for a mixed 32- and 64-bit environment. That should allow customers to upgrade a single server, for example, when they need to replace one anyway. The SAP Itanium 2 upgrade was an extensive project, and Deller said there is no current plan to do the same for Opteron. No other major business software vendor has announced support for Linux on either Itanium 2 or Opteron yet. But that doesn't mean you can't run 32-bit applications on the 64-bit chips. Opteron is backward compatible with 32-bit x86 code chips. Itanium is not backward compatible. Although you can run 32-bit applications on Itanium 2, you take a performance hit, according to Vito Valenzano, director of center of excellence at information technology products provider Insight Enterprises Inc. "The truth is, running 32-bit apps on Itanium 2 is pretty ugly," he said. Tom Donnelly, director of marketing for the public sector at Intel, acknowledges the problem, although he said much of it has been solved in the newest Itanium 2 releases.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.

Featured

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group