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Itanium (pronounced /aɪˈteɪniəm/ eye-TAY-nee-əm) is a family of 64-bit Intel microprocessors that implement the Intel Itanium architecture (formerly called IA-64). The processors are marketed for use in enterprise servers and high-performance computing systems. The architecture originated at Hewlett-Packard (HP), and was later jointly developed by HP and Intel.

The Itanium architecture is based on explicit instruction-level parallelism, in which decisions about which instructions to execute in parallel must be made by the compiler. This contrasts with other superscalar architectures which depend upon processor functionality that keeps track of instruction dependencies at runtime. Itanium cores up to and including Tukwila execute up to six instructions per clock cycle.

Intended to have significantly better performance than Intel's then well established x86 architecture, Itanium departed significantly from the latter. After a protracted development process and many delays the first Itanium processor, codenamed Merced, was released in 2001. Although its speed would have been impressive if introduced on time in 1999, it ran only half as fast as the contemporary x86-based Pentium 4.[1]

Today,[when?] most Itanium-based systems are manufactured by HP as part of its HP Integrity Servers line, but several other manufacturers also offer systems based on Itanium. As of 2008, Itanium was the fourth-most deployed microprocessor architecture for enterprise-class systems, behind x86-64, IBM POWER, and SPARC.[2] The most recent processor, Tukwila, originally planned for release in 2007, was released on February 8, 2010.[3][4]

While targeting Itanium initially at high-end servers, Intel planned to sell Itanium processors in other markets as these markets made the transition to 64-bit. However, during the 2000s AMD developed a 64-bit extension to x86 known as x86-64; this extension was later adopted by Intel itself and became, instead of Itanium, the new de facto standard processor architecture for PCs. Reflecting the fact that high-end Itanium servers most frequently run the HP-UX operating system, Microsoft announced in April 2010 that it would not release any new versions of Windows on Itanium.[5] Itanium's position in the high-end server market is also being challenged by x86-64 as 8- to 12-core x86-64 chips have become available.[citation needed]

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