RealTime IT News

Intel Nudges Enterprise With New Chips

SAN FRANCISCO -- Intel is serving a new cache of server chips, leaving customers who survived the IT jitters of 2003 pondering whether or not to take the leap.

The Santa Clara, chipmaking giant is giving it its best shot by targeting developers. Company execs Wednesday outlined Intel's advances for enterprise environments as part of its bi-annual developer's forum.

The strategy on the client and enterprise side includes an array of 90-nanometer Pentium, Xeon and Itanium processors. All of which will be (if they are not already) 64-bit compatible through extensions by the end of the year.

"This success is not just Intel's -- it is for all of us," Intel Vice President and Desktop Platforms Group czar Bill Siu said to developers attending the company's bi-annual technology showcase here. "With new products and services, together we prosper."

Earlier this week, Intel confirmed its plans to release the 64-bit extensions for its x86 processor family.

Xeon's next generation "Nocona" will get the first crack at the extensions commonly referred to by Intel as "CT", or Clackamas Technology, beginning next quarter. The 64-bit Pentium extensions for "Prescott" P4s are expected to debut sometime mid-year.

And while the debate on whether the IT world is ready for an x86 64-bit infrastructure, all of the advances are meant to motivate operating systems makers to set the stage for software application developers.

"If you look at the announcements, this is an exciting time for software developers as they will be looking on how to capitalize on 64-bit applications," Framingham, Mass.-based analyst firm IDC vice president of research Jean Bozman. "A number of things have come together to make it happen. More bandwidth. More use of PDAs. Some sophistication at the back end, and that's where we're going to see more 64-bit computing, to support those services."

While only Microsoft has made the first step with 64-bit trial versions of Windows XP and Windows Server operating system, Intel said developers can take solace in its software partitioning Vanderpool Technology (VT) as the migration tool for running older operating systems and/or applications.

But will customers buy into Intel's new vision? Intel Senior Vice President General Manager, Enterprise Platforms Group, Mike Fister, is convinced the market is finally ready.

"We've been planning on this for awhile and our timing was deliberate," Fister said. "In the coming several years, we will be working with our partners to bring this to the enterprise."

Marketed for high-end systems, Fister announced new points on the Itanium 2 roadmap including "Madison" Itanium 2 processors at 1.4 GHz and 1.6 GHz, each with three megabytes (MB) of cache, followed by processors codenamed "Millington" next year.

The first multi-core Itanium 2 processor for dual processor servers and workstations, codenamed "Dimona," will follow after Millington. The first dual-core Itanium 2 processor, codenamed "Montecito," is due in 2005, and will be supported by Intel's third-generation chipset codenamed "Bayshore."

The chipset supports PCI Express and double data-rate (DDR2) memory. Intel also announced new technologies in Montecito codenamed "Pellston" (cache reliability) and "Foxton" (workload performance) technologies, respectively.

For its server workhorse chip, Intel said all future Xeon processors starting with "Nocona," would automatically include the new 64-bit extensions. The company said it is releasing its last 32-bit Xeon running at 3.2 GHz with a larger, 2MB cache.

Fister said the next-generation Nocona Xeon is due in the first half of 2004 and will ship at 3.6 GHz with an 800 MHz FSB and support for DDR2, PCI Express and 64-bit extensions.

Intel also unveiled a new four-way server blade, the Intel Server Compute Blade SBX44, based on the Intel Xeon processor MP and built in collaboration with IBM. And, for the rapidly growing small business market segment, Intel introduced the Intel E7210 chipset, offering enhanced reliability to entry level, Pentium 4 processor-based servers.

In a show of support, HP, Dell, IBM and NEC said they would back the Xeon extensions, Dell and HP especially went one step further by avoiding AMD's Opteron alternative for now, as well as working with Intel on support technologies such as fully-buffered DIMM (FBDIMM), DDR2 and PCI Express. The trio, along with NEC, also announced version 2.0 of the Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) specification.

On the client side, Intel is standing firm on its "Prescott" Pentium sitting on a Grantsdale chipset. The platform includes support for dual display, integrated access points, TPM1.2, high definition audio, stable image, Gigabit Ethernet, and Matrix RAID .

However, Siu said future Prescott-based chips would shift from the company's Hyper-Threading technology to a multi-threading technology and new processor designs featuring dual cores (essentially two processors on a single piece of silicon).

Instead, Hyper-Threading would be used in concert with Intel's "No Execute" (NX) memory protection and the codenamed LaGrande technology (LT) as a security technology hardwired right on chip die. The NX feature, which is already available in Intel Itanium 2 processors for servers, will be available in processors for client-based systems in the second half of 2004.

Siu said Intel is also looking at changing the beige-box landscape with its new "Balanced Technology Extended," or BTX. The new desktop form factor, which sports a huge fan in the front, looks to redefine motherboard sizes and layouts.