RealTime IT News

Intel: Gaps in Itanium, Xeon Roadmaps

SAN FRANCISCO -- Intel is pressing so hard to get its enterprise processors in the forefront, it may be contributing to its own hardships.

During its bi-annual Developers Forum here, the chipmaker focused on promoting its next-generation Itanium and Xeon processors. The Santa Clara, Calif. company is using the systems to keep its edge against archrival AMD , which set Intel on its ear courtesy of last year's 64-bit Opteron and consequent processor release.

But even Intel has admitted that its Itanium is not selling as well as it expected in the short-term and that its Xeon family is under pressure to deliver not only dual-core architectures but show performance gains with its Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology (Intel EM64T).

"Are we meeting the goals we had for this year? At least not to the aggressive levels we set," said Abhi Talwalkar, general manager of Intel's enterprise platform group.

Both Intel and AMD have a strategy to shift toward a dual-core architecture. Intel's plan is to shift its client, enterprise and mobile processors to a dual-core "threading" or "parallelism" architecture in 2005 with inclusion in the majority of its portfolio in 2006.

However, that is not to say the Itanium processors aren't selling. Intel said it has tallied ten times as many server shipments over the last year with three times the revenue. The company also boasts that 38 of the world's biggest 100 companies use Itanium, including cereal maker General Mills and consumer product maker Procter & Gamble.

Deborah Conrad, Intel solutions market development group manager, said many of the top 500 corporations have been approached with a free trial period to "try-and-buy" its Intel Itanium processors.

But Talwalkar and Conrad also admitted that Intel's low-end Itanium lineup has small holes now that the company has officially abandoned its third-generation chipset, code-named "Bayshore." Even though the processor add-on supported PCI Express and double data-rate (DDR2) memory, the company shelved the hardware in a drive for a common architecture between Xeon and Itanium. The move was not expected to impact the white box market too much as Talwalkar commented that Intel has a full line of alternatives.

Intel executives, including COO Paul Otellini and CTO Pat Gelsinger, have noted indirectly that Opteron's momentum has upped the pace for their own enterprise roadmaps.

"We had some fumbles and so we went back to the basics," Otellini said. "I'm happy to see that our competitor is also adopting a multi-core strategy because it validates our choice. This is not the same race it has been. We're moving back toward a consistent, rigorous and conservative production schedule."

One bright spot Intel managed to point out is that when Itanium is present, it makes its presence known. The chipmaker is supplying NASA with 10,240 Itanium processors for a SGI system running Altix that should finally unseat the world's fastest supercomputer -- NEC's Earth Simulator.

Intel said its dual core road all starts with its 90-nm dual core Itanium processor, code named Montecito, with a 65 nm process follow on, code-named Montvale, and a low voltage variant available next year called Millington. In 2007, Intel said it expects to release the multi-core Tukwila chip and its low power counterpart Dimona.

The first two multi-core Intel Xeon processors based on the 90 nm process, are codenamed "Cranford" and "Potomac," and are expected in the first half of 2005. The products will include Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology (Intel EM64T) and Demand Based Switching with Intel Enhanced SpeedStep Technology. They will be supported by a new four-way chipset, codenamed "Twin Castle," that supports PCI Express and DDR2 memory.

The company said its multi-core technology is expected to arrive in high-end systems with a dual-core Intel Xeon processor codenamed "Tulsa."

Farther out on the roadmap are a multi-core Intel Xeon processor, codenamed "Whitefield," and its multi-core Itanium 2 processor counterpart, codenamed "Tukwila." Whitefield will share a common platform architecture with Tukwila.

For two-way servers and workstations, Intel announced "Irwindale" as the codename for a follow-on processor to the recently introduced Intel Xeon processor at 3.6 GHz. Irwindale is expected support a faster clock speed and larger 2MB cache.

Talwalkar also said future Intel enterprise products will incorporate other already disclosed silicon technologies such as the server version of virtualization technology, code-named "Silvervale," which will allow for partitioning and other security and reliability attributes.