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The consortium of vendors working to increase the reach of Intel’s Itanium architecture is kicking off a program aimed at enticing software vendors to migrate their SPARC/Solaris applications over to Itanium.

The ISV Platform Expansion Program, introduced Sept. 25 by the year-old Itanium Solutions Alliance, will take advantage of Transitive’s QuickTransit technology, which enables applications written for Sun Microsystems’ RISC-based platform to run on the Itanium architecture without having to make source code or binary changes.

The ISA also announced that the number of applications that can run on Itanium had passed the 10,000 mark, more than doubling the number over the past year, and that Oracle, of Redwood Shores, Calif., will support Itanium on its Oracle Database and Fusion Middleware offerings.

The group also is running a contest aimed at highlighting Itanium 2-based applications.

The alliance made the announcements at its first Itanium Solutions Summit in San Francisco, right before Intel kicks off its developer forum there.

The ISV program targets what supporters say is a key market, the RISC-replacement space. Transitive, of Los Gatos, Calif., released QuickTransit in June.

“We will provide licenses and support to ISV member companies who are interested in running their Solaris applications on the newest generation of Itanium platforms—immediately,” Transitive President and CEO Bob Wiederhold said in a prepared statement.

The ISA was created in September 2005 by a group of hardware and software makers—including Hewlett-Packard, Fujitsu, Unisys, Microsoft, SAP and Red Hat—looking to push the adoption of Intel’s controversial 64-bit architecture.

Once targeted to be the next all-purpose microprocessor architecture, Itanium over the past decade has been hobbled by early performance problems, product delays and, later, by the continued growth of x86 processors, both from Intel and rival Advanced Micro Devices.

Now the Itanium architecture is aimed at the RISC-replacement space and high-end computing. HP, of Palo Alto, Calif.—which co-developed Itanium with Intel—is the only top-tier server maker with Itanium-based systems.

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Both IBM and Dell have turned away from it, and Sun is instead using AMD’s Opteron chip for its x86 servers.

Critics say the architecture is doomed to remain a niche product.

However, a host of smaller vendors—including Silicon Graphics, Unisys and Fujitsu—are embracing the technology. The ISA is promising $10 million in funding over the next four years to push Itanium.

In addition, some industry observers see a relatively healthy market for Itanium. IDC, of Framingham, Mass., expects the Itanium space to grow from $1.4 billion in 2004 to $6.6 billion in 2009.

According to IDC, sales of Itanium-based systems grew 36.4 percent in the second quarter 2006, generating $470 million in revenue.

Intel in July unveiled the Itanium 2 9000 series—formerly codenamed “Montecito”—which includes dual-core and on-chip virtualization technologies.

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