Three thoughts to make you shudder: - Merced/Irix. - McKinley/HP-UX. - Itanium/VMS.
It has long been said that history repeats itself. It has more recently been mentioned that history is speeding up. But who knew that it had gotten so fast that giant corporations would line up to blow their brains out exactly the same way within three years of one another?
April 1998: a horrible accidental suicide begins, a suicide which will take upwards of three years to run its gory course. It begins as a strategic alliance. The victim is SGI which, seduced by Intel, decides to streamline its operations by focusing on making systems and software; SGI intends to cut hardware development costs by turning to Intel for all its processor needs. 64-bit MIPS chips look dull compared to the Intel Powerpoint-performance specs for IA64, so SGI spins off its MIPS business and bets the farm on IA64 being out by late 1999.
Intel sure pushes good crack. Craig Barrett, president and CEO of Intel: "We'll work closely with SGI to help them produce best-of-class Intel-based systems throughout their product line - from personal through high-end workstations to servers and supercomputers... Both Intel and SGI will work further on 64-bit systems as Intel's Merced processor becomes available in 1999 and SGI ports the IRIX operating system to Merced."
Midway through 2001 SGI still hasn't shipped an IA64 system because, well, Intel hasn't really shipped a usable IA64 just yet.
SGI's 1997 assets of $3.3 billion have, by now, been whittled away to $1.5 billion, with almost $800 million in losses reported in 2000 alone. Since the 2000 annual report came out, in fact, SGI has sold off another $100 million in property and yet, in spite of that, has burned through half its cash in about six months.
The writing is on the wall. SGI is bleeding out. And this is why it's so surprising that history is repeating itself so dramatically, so soon...
June, 2001: a horrible accidental suicide begins, a suicide which will take upwards of three years to run its gory course. It begins as a strategic alliance. The victim is Compaq which, seduced by Intel, decides to streamline its operations by focusing on making systems and software; Compaq intends to cut hardware development costs by turning to Intel for all its processor needs. 64-bit Alpha chips look dull compared to the Intel Powerpoint-performance specs for IA64, so Compaq gives all the Alpha technology to Intel and bets the farm on a high-performance IA64 being out well before 2004.
Intel sure pushes good crack. Craig Barrett, president and CEO of Intel: "This agreement with Compaq furthers our shared vision of delivering customer value by advancing high-performance, high-volume building blocks. Our agreement will bring higher levels of performance, availability and scalability to systems based on the Itanium processor family."
The writing is on the wall. Compaq's wrists are slit.
On top of these hideous reports, of course, we should also note that HP is pretty much out of the PA-RISC business, desperately trying to get itself onto the IA64 bandwagon, pretending along with everyone else that the bandwagon has wheels and a horse to pull it.
Check out that bloodflow!
To change metaphors abruptly, it looks like Intel stuck a plastic fin on its head marked "IA64", jumped into the 64-bit processor pool way in back of the other racers, shouted about how big the shark was under the fin, and HP, SGI, and now Compaq have all jumped out of the pool because, well, they're afraid that there might maybe someday be a shark grown up under that piece of plastic, and besides they think it'll be easier to just throw money at Intel to do all the racing in spite of the sudden absence of motivating competition.
Do we sound bitter? Oh no, we're not bitter. Just come join us as we mourn the death of commercial computer architecture at tonight's...
****************** G I R L S C O U T B E N E F I T ****************** ****************** 5:30pm 7AI Playroom ******************