Intel Plays Name Game with New Server Chips

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Intel outlined its upcoming server and networking processors this week, setting its development course for the next few years.

Surveying its roadmap during the Intel Developers Forum here, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip company said its workhorse Xeon lineup and blossoming Itanium family will focus on making boxes run bigger, faster and cheaper.

“Its a consistent theme we’re experiencing because the problems companies are trying to solve are more sophisticated,” Intel senior vice president Mike Fister said during his keynote.

To entice vendors to use its 64-bit chips, Intel said it would ship its long rumored “Tanglewood” Itanium 2 processor in 2006. The processor is expected to contain eight cores. A 16-core version is expected soon after. The company’s dual-core Montecito (made on the 90-nanometer process) is due out in 2005.

When asked about the adoption rates for its Itanium line, Fister said the company is not revealing specific sales numbers but now has about 700 applications designed to run specifically on the processor.

“Companies like IBM, Hewlett-Packard SGI, they don’t build these machines just for the hell of it. They do it because customers ask,” Fister said.

Much of the ballyhoo in server technology centered on Intel’s partnership with VERITAS, which is working with the No. 1 chipmaker on its Intel Server Compute Blade SBXL52 (two Intel Xeon processors per blade with a total of 14 blades per chassis). Intel said it plans to release a four-way Intel Xeon processor MP-based blade (“McCarran”) later this year.

Intel said its multi-core Xeon processor family (“Gallatin”) for servers with four or more processors would be extended with a larger cache processor in the first half of 2004. The first 90-nanometer Xeon (code-named “Potomac”) will follow with support from a new Intel chipset (code-named “Twin Castle”).

The Xeon dual-core processor for servers and workstations is expected to get a speed bump by the end of the year. The family’s first 90-nanometer chip due in the first half of 2004 is code-named “Nocona”. An additional 90-nanometer code-named “Jayhawk” is expected to follow soon after. Intel said the Nocona would run primarily in three new server and workstation chipsets code-named “Lindenhurst,” “Lindenhurst VS” and “Tumwater”.

Equally important to Intel’s server success is helping run the switches and routers that act as go-betweens, according to Intel vice president Eric Mentzer.

“You know that fuzzy thing that everybody draws when they talk about the Ether of the Internet? If there is not convergence that doesn’t happen,” Mentzer said during his keynote. “Without our network processors, if we do not do this, we won’t be able to deliver on our promise of convergence.”

To that end, Intel introduced its IXP2400, Intel IXP2800 and Intel IXP2850 network processors. The product line of network processors incorporate pipelined RISC micro-engines and cryptographic acceleration allowing wire speed fire-walling and VPN encryption up to 10Gbps.

The chips are expected to compete with similar offering by Broadcom , Agere and Texas Instruments . Mentzer said his group’s processors are helping build Intel’s grand scheme of wireless networking and are already making their way into consumer Wi-Fi products.

Future wireless networking products for the Intel Centrino mobile technology platform include an 802.11b/g wireless networking component that will be in production before the end of 2003, and an 802.11a/b/g wireless networking component that will be in production in the first half of 2004.

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