"ASICs do not run customer apps well enough"
Well that rather depends on what the app is, a question which is so far unanswered. Perhaps you or Matt could enlighten us, as TPM doesn't seem able to.
Big Iron routers and suchlike don't need IA64, but sometimes they do benefit from special purpose silicon, and there's lots of very affordable, very high performance, remarkably easily programmable FPGA stuff around these days, which suit some classes of application (typically dedicated apps, although an FPGA setup can easily change what it's dedicated to).
What kind of application am I thinking about for FPGAs? Well pick the random example of deep packet inspection, as one might in a country like China (or even, according to Phorm, Brazil?). You might do basic deep packet inspection with something FPGA-based as front ends. What does that then need behind it that can't be done just as well with something commodity-based rather than something exotic like an IA64 box?
Afaict the only place where IA64 hardware still has any meaningful role is ultra-massive-memory ultra-massive-SMP systems. Everywhere else, AMD64 and its Intel clones are far better value for money and have far better software support in general - but may not currently offer the specific software of choice, if the specific software of choice happens to be based on HP-UX, NSK, or VMS.
So, exactly what application(s) do readers think Huawei and Inspur have in mind?
On a couple of different tracks: Readers are aware that Huawei already do Xeon-based kit are they (the Tecal ones TPM mentioned)? Huawei's Tecal servers are qualified to run Oracle Enterprise Linux. Which is likely to be more important to Huawei prospects, IA64 or Oracle? Larry thinks he knows the answer to that question. Does Matt have a different answer?
Also, obviously Intel aren't the kind of company that likes to StrongARM its big name customers into doing things they might not otherwise do (hello Dell), so I won't suggest that continued access to support on Xeon developments in the face of some real or imaginary US restrictions has been related directly or indirectly to Huawei announcing an IA64 box.
"there's loads of big UNIX in all the telecoms I can think of!"
Obviously; the telco sector has its operational systems and its business systems running on commercial tin as well as core infrastructure boxes which may or may not be on telco-specific tin.
Five or ten years ago, the world was different, but these days why does any of that run better on IA64 than on A N Other chip? If there's any difference in it these days, in many cases it's because of the underlying OS. NSK and VMS have no direct competitors, but there is little uniqueness in HP-UX.
"China has a massive program to develop independent software through Linux"
Indeed so. And how well is Linux doing on IA64 vs other Linux-ready hardware, with AMD64 at the high end, and ARM/MIPS elsewhere, and a bit of SPARC and Power on the commercial UNIX fringes?
"take a trip down to Fort Meade or Langley"
My local equivalent is in Cheltenham. Their approach to the subjects you mentioned when I last looked was based on lots of small but surprisingly powerful boxes. There may have been a few big boxes there too in areas I didn't know. That being said, a handful of sites does not necessarily constitute a profitable market.
"a really stupid comment."
We'll see, won't we.
What would be really really stupid would be for a vendor's organisational stovepipes and limited corporate vision to end up forcing their OS-sensitive customers to pick up the unnecessary cost of continued IA64 chip and system development, when the real differentiation and added value is in the OS software not the underlying chip hardware.
Too long? Have a nice weekend anyway :)