Intel Prepares New 32-bit Server Chips

Intel Corp. will continue to develop new 32-bit processors for servers and workstations, even as the chip maker prepares to launch its first 64-bit Itanium chip early next year, a senior Intel executive said here Tuesday.

Intel's 32-bit processors will continue to play a role in supporting front-end server applications, such as messaging, file, print and Web servers, as well as being used in workstations to run data modelling, content creation and other demanding applications, said Mike Fister, vice president of Intel's enterprise platforms group.

Fister made his comments during a press briefing at Intel Developer Forum (IDF) here Tuesday.

In the first quarter of 2001, Intel will launch a new chip for workstations codenamed Foster, which is based on a similar architecture to the Pentium 4 desktop processor due out at the end of this year. Foster will be offered with Intel's 860 chipset, which supports the high-performance RDRAM (Rambus dynamic random access memory) memory standard, Fister said.

A version of Foster for two-way servers will appear in the second quarter of 2001, followed by another server version, this time for four- and eight-way servers, in the third quarter of next year, Fister said. Chipsets for each of those processors will be offered by third-party manufacturers.

If Intel continues its historical branding strategy, Foster should become the Pentium 4 Xeon, although Intel officials wouldn't actually come out and say that Tuesday. They did say that Foster will ship with a variety of on-board Level 2 cache sizes, much as the Pentium III Xeon does today.

While it talks up its new processors, Intel continues to have trouble meeting demand for its existing top of the line chips. The company has already acknowledged a shortage of its fastest desktop Pentium III processors. Those shortages are apparently affecting the Xeon too.

"Capacity is tight, business is good," Fister said, in response to a question about the shortages. "I wish there were more Xeons."

When Intel switches to a more advanced, 0.13-micron manufacturing process in 2001, it will produce a successor to Foster called Gallatin. The company wouldn't comment much on Gallatin Tuesday, although moving to a new manufacturing process generally allows Intel to boost the performance of a processor and reduce manufacturing costs.

Intel is developing a new chipset called 82870 that will work with Gallatin, McKinley and other future processors. Another chipset codenamed Plumas is under development for dual-processor servers, and will drive "new technology initiatives around InfiniBand," Fister said. InfiniBand is a new I/O (input/output) architecture being developed for servers.

Attendees here this week at IDF are keen to hear more about Itanium.

Like other 64-bit processors in the pipeline, Itanium will be aimed at more powerful midrange servers, a market where Intel hopes to steal some business from makers of RISC (reduced instruction set computer) chips such as Sun Microsystems Inc. Intel will pitch Itanium servers for running large databases, data warehousing and business intelligence applications, Fister said.

The first Itaniums to ship won't run at 800MHz, as Intel had promised. Instead, Itanium will likely debut at 733MHz, increasing to 800MHz in the second quarter of 2001, Fister said.

While Intel has said that Windows is an important platform for its 64-bit chips, Fister implied that Unix will be more important because most users are running data center applications on Unix today.

"One of the reasons that IA-64 is so intriguing is not only that we build those large-scale machines, but we'll build them with environments that are hosted on HP-UX, on Monterey, or Linux or Modesto, things that are very native to the applications that people run," Fister said.

Intel, based in Santa Clara, California, can be reached at +1-408-987-8080 or via the Internet at http://www.intel.com/.

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