Intel plans dual-core 64-bit server chip in 2005

Intel Corp. plans to add a lower-priced single processor to the Itanium line later this year and will add a dual-core processor to its Itanium family of 64-bit server chips in 2005, according to Lisa Graff, director of the Intel enterprise processor marketing group.

Graff said Intel plans to add a 6MB cache to its Itanium 2 processor, code-named Madison, this year and a 9MB cache in 2004. The Madison has a clock speed of 1.5 GHz, and Graff said bigger caches would allow organizations to run complex software faster because of the larger memory cache.

The new, lower-priced processor, code-named Deerfield, will be configured for use in dual-processor servers, Graff said.The Deerfield chip will offer the same clock speed and cache as the Madison chips, Graff said. She declined to detail prices. But current Itanium processors cost from US$1,338 for a chip with a 900-MHz clock speed and a 1.5MB cache to $4,226 for a 1-GHz processor with a 3MB cache.

Graff, who detailed Intel's new Itanium processor road map for journalists and analysts in a series of briefings earlier this week, said the new "Montecito" dual-core Itanium processor Intel plans to introduce in 2005 will be manufactured with the company's 90nm (nanometer) process technology. That is roughly one-third smaller than the 130nm die size used for the Madison and Deerfield chips. Graff said the dual-core Montecito would feature two processors on a single piece of silicon, allowing it to execute operations faster than a dual processor server.

Jonathan Eunice, an analyst at Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H., said the Itanium road map indicates to him that Intel has started down the same commodity path it followed with PC chips. But, "at these prices, I would call them quasi-commodity chips," he said.

Graff made it clear that Intel intends to compete with high-end, enterprise-class servers made by Sun Microsystems Inc. with its new chip line. She said the new Itanium chips are "absolutely aimed at Sun," which has the bulk of the high-end server market.

Asked about that, Sun spokesman Mark Richardson said, "Our road map keeps us well ahead of the competition. Nearly one out of every two 64-bit chips shipped is a SPARC processor."

Eunice said he doesn't view the new Itanium line as "Sun-killers," but he did note that it will put pressure on both Sun and IBM, which also has a 64-bit server chip line.

Kevin Knox, director of commercial business development at Advanced Micro Devices Inc., in Sunnyvale, Calif., said his company "can keep up with Intel from a technology perspective," with its Opteron line of 32- and 64-bit server chips. He said AMD is also capable of developing a dual-core processor chip, but declined to provide a timeline.

Knox also declined to disclose whether AMD plans to use the 90nm process technology in building its processors.

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