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With the launch of Intel's second-generation processor in its 64-bit Itanium server and workstation line just months away, NEC unveiled a prototype 32-way server based on the new processor at the Intel Developer's Forum here on Tuesday.

The processor, which has the codename McKinley, will deliver 1.5 to 2 times the performance of the first generation chip, according to Intel. The chip maker has doubled memory bandwidth to 400MHz and moved the level 3 memory cache on-die to achieve the performance benefits over the original Itanium that was launched in late May last year, engineers said.

The prototype server NEC had on display can accommodate up to 32 processors, although the company was showing it running on eight of the 1GHz McKinley processors. It holds up to 128G bytes of memory and has a 64-bit PCI-X bus which runs at up to 1G bps (bits per second). It can be clustered to provide a system with up to 512 processors, NEC said.

Few additional details of the machine were available and an NEC engineer declined to offer performance details, saying it was too early to disclose the information. The company is claiming a peak performance on a 32-way version of the server of 128G Flops (floating point operations per second).

Named "Asama," the server is expected to appear in 16- and 32-way versions in the middle of this year, at the same time as the McKinley chip debuts. It can run the HP-UX, Windows and Linux operating systems.

Beyond the upcoming McKinley chip, which is manufactured using a 0.18 micron production process, Intel plans to launch two third generation processors, codenamed Madison and Deerfield, in 2003. Those chips will be produced using a more advanced 0.13-micron production process that will allow Intel to improve processing performance and increase the size of the on-die cache memory up to 6G bytes.

Looking further ahead still, Intel announced plans Tuesday to keep the Itanium family running into 2004 with the introduction of a fourth-generation chip. The Montecito processor will jump to 90 nanometer (0.09 micron) production technology and retain platform and software compatibility with the Madison and McKinley processors.

"Although I can't go into great detail today about the capabilities, they are little enhancements and we are keeping the design for our next process generation, which is 90 nanometers," said Tom Macdonald, general manager of the advanced components division at Intel's enterprise platform group, announcing the fourth generation chip.

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