The Itanic has been sunk by the x86 juggernaut.
After 20 years of failing to make a name for itself in the computing world, Intel finally stopped shipping Itanium processors this week. While the company shifted its focus back to the more familiar x86 instruction set architecture (ISA) in 2004, Itanium was kept alive for another decade and a half, until it was killed off in 2019.
Itanium was the result of a collaboration between HP and Intel in the 1990s, when the range of ISAs in use was far more diverse than the x86 and Arm titans of today. The IA-64 architecture was created to push the boundaries of then-exotic 64-bit computing, as well as to replace the proprietary solutions used by many individual companies.
The project, however, was quickly dubbed “Itanic” due to the amount of money spent on it, its ambition, and its eventual results. Itanium’s promise was shattered by a lack of legacy 32-bit support and difficulties in writing and maintaining software for the architecture.
The dream of a single dominant ISA would come true a few years later, thanks to the AMD64 extension to the incumbent x86 instruction set. Pat Gelsinger, Intel’s then-senior VP (and now CEO), was in charge of the company’s Digital Enterprise Group at the time, and when 64-bit capability and multi-core computing came to x86, the company’s Xeons proved much better suited to the market’s demands.
The rest is history; x86-64 is still the most popular ISA, only being challenged by Arm, and ended up easily outpacing its Itanium cousin in both core counts and clock speeds. Nonetheless, Intel continued to develop Itanium over the years, until the last generation was announced in 2017.
That has finally come to a conclusion this week when the last Itanium silicon shipped. But if you’re an extremely brave enterprise user with a very specific platform from two decades ago, The Register seems to have spotted a whole load of Itanium parts on the second-hand market. Go wild.