Red Hat Ditches Itanium in Upcoming Enterprise Release

by Sean Michael Kerner

Is Linux on Itanium in trouble? Not necessarily.

Linux vendor Red Hat will not be supporting Intel's Itanium chip architecture for its next-generation Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 (RHEL) platform.

RHEL 6 is still months away from a milestone release though, and as a result, current Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) Itanium customers have little to worry about. Red Hat is remaining committed to supporting Itanium on its current RHEL 5 platform until at least 2014.

The move by Red Hat comes as the Itanium processor family, backed by Intel and HP, continues to remain robust, despite 2009's economic pressures and earlier predictions of the platform's demise.

"The next major release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux will not provide support for the Itanium architecture; consequently, all Itanium-related development will be incorporated into Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 exclusively," a Red Hat spokesperson said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.

Red Hat did not respond to questions on why the decision was being made now to drop Itanium support in RHEL 6. The RHEL 5 release came out in 2007 and was most recently updated to version 5.4 in September.

Red Hat has not yet publicly disclosed when RHEL 6 will become available.

Current Itanium customers won't be stranded, however. Red Hat said it remains committed to protecting users' Itanium investments, with enterprise-class support for RHEL 5 on Itanium continuing until March 2014.

"During this period, Red Hat will provide support, deliver new features, and enable new Itanium hardware in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 exclusively in accordance with the published RHEL product lifecycle," the spokesperson said. "In addition, extended support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 for Itanium is available up to March 2017 from selected OEMs."

Red Hat isn't the only enterprise Linux vendor to support Itanium: Rival Novell (NASDAQ: NOVL) is also a supporter, although it has yet to make any future predictions on whether it will support Itanium in its next release.

"Itanium is a fully supported platform for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11, just as it was for previous versions," Michael Applebaum, senior solution marketing manager at Novell, told InternetNews.com. "We've worked closely with our processor and server partners -- including Intel, HP and others -- to deliver an optimized version of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for the Itanium architecture."

The most recent SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) release is version 11, which debuted earlier this year. Applebaum added that Itanium is an important platform for many Novell customers, particularly in high-performance computing.

Applebaum also said that Itanium users should feel confident in Novell's ongoing support with SUSE Linux Enterprise 11. As for future Novell releases, however, that's not as clear.

"SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 is still some way off, and we've only just begun planning for this release," Applebaum said.

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This article was originally published on Monday Dec 21st 2009
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