Intel on Tuesday provided a few more details about future plans for its enterprise server processors, but the company maintained its silence on its plans for an upcoming dual-core Xeon processor, which it has promised as the next major follow-up to the Nocona chip it launched in August.
Earlier on Tuesday, Intel President and Chief Operating Officer Paul Otellini had said that his company planned to introduce dual-core chips for desktops, servers and notebooks in 2005. But in an interview later in the day a senior Intel executive said his company was not ready to reveal any details about the new Xeon processor.
"We want to make sure that any commitments that we make have all the right levels of scrutiny," said Abhi Talwalkar, vice president and general manager of Intel's Enterprise Platforms Group,. "There are multiple considerations that we're weighing now, everything from time to market options to consideration around the platform that we just launched into the marketplace," he said referring to Nocona.
In May, Intel scrapped plans to develop a single-core follow-up to Nocona, code named Jayhawk, saying that it would instead develop a processor that would contain the cores of two processors on the same chip -- a move that analysts saw as a sign of Intel's growing commitment to dual-core processors.
Dual-core chips divide up processing tasks into two separate processing units, which can speed up performance for certain types of applications. Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has promised to begin shipping dual-core Opteron processors in 2005. Other server chip makers, including IBM, with its Power 4 processor, and Sun Microsystems, with its UltraSparc IV, have already begun shipping dual-core systems.
Though his reluctance to talk about the Jayhawk replacement may raise questions about how far away the new chip may be from shipping, Talwalkar has reason to be cautious when discussing future product plans. Intel has been plagued with missed deadlines over the last year, including delays in the rollout of its Dothan Pentium M mobile processors and Prescott Pentium 4 chips. In July, Intel CEO Craig Barrett issued a memo admonishing staff for the slips and calling on the company to change its ways.
A desire to avoid further missed deadlines may account for a general lack of new product roadmap details during the first day of the conference, said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with research firm Insight 64. "Intel has not been as forthcoming at this IDF (Intel Developers Forum) with details of their roadmap as they have in the past," he said.
Still, Talwalkar did offer a few snippets of news about his company's enterprise server processor roadmap.
Intel is readying a minor upgrade to Xeon for the first part of 2005, he said. Code named Irwindale, the chip will have 2M bytes of Level 2 cache, twice the on-chip memory of Nocona. "Irwindale is really a Nocona with la larger cache," Talwalkar said.
A new low-cost version of the Xeon MP processor for systems with more than two microprocessors, called Cranford, is also in the works. Intel also plans to ship a multi-core Xeon processor, called Whitefield, that will be interchangeable with Intel's upcoming Tukwila Itanium 2 processors, so that system vendors will be able to use the same components to build Itanium or Xeon systems, Talwalkar said.
Though Talwalkar declined to reveal more details on Whitefield, Intel has in the past stated that it hopes to have Itanium and Xeon system using identical components by 2007.
Talwalkar also confirmed that Intel was developing a follow-up to its dual-core Montecito Itanium processor, code named Montvale, that will ship sometime after Montecito makes its appearance in 2005.