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.

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