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Hewlett-Packard Co. is discontinuing its line of Itanium-based workstations, saying demand from its customers is for x86 systems powered by processors with 64-bit extensions.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company is discontinuing its one-way zx2000 and two-way zx6000 workstations, which were introduced in May 2003 and run on Intel Corp.’s Itanium 2 64-bit processors. HP will support the workstations for the next five years, a spokesperson said.

Instead, development efforts will focus on the company’s line of workstations running Intel’s 32-bit Xeon processors, which were upgraded this summer to include the new Nocona chips. Those processors offer 64-bit extensions, which enable them to run 32-bit and 64-bit applications.

The spokesperson said the decision would have no impact on HP’s Integrity line of Itanium-based servers.

“In working with and listening to our high-performance workstation partners and customers, we have become aware that the focus in this arena is being driven toward 64-bit extension technology,” HP said in a prepared statement.

HP partnered with Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., in developing Itanium, which offers a different architecture than the x86 processors, and is the top seller of Itanium-based systems. At one time, Intel officials said Itanium would become the standard for 64-bit computing.

However, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. last year rolled out its Opteron processors, which run both 32-bit and 64-bit software. Officials with AMD, of Sunnyvale, Calif., said users were looking for a simple migration path to 64-bit computing, rather than having to move to an entirely new architecture.

Click here to read about how the new processors have been a boon to workstations.

The popularity of Opteron sparked Intel in February to unveil its EM64T technology, which gave the same 64-bit extension capabilities to its Xeon chips as Opteron offers. Intel officials now say that the two lines of processors—x86 with EM64T and Itanium—are complementary, with Itanium in the high-end niche for RISC-replacement projects and the Xeons for volume space.

For its part, HP has moved to standardize its high-end servers—including its AlphaServers and PA-RISC systems—on Itanium. However, it is not only embracing the 64-bit extended Xeons in its Industry Standard Servers, but also rolling out a line of systems running Opteron.

Sun Microsystems Inc. also is using Opteron as its vehicle for competing in the x86 space, unveiling a line of servers and workstations starting in February. IBM also offers Opteron-based workstations and servers, though Dell Inc. has remained loyal to the Intel architecture.

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