SAN FRANCISCO – Intel’s partners rolled out lots of big iron for the unveiling of the latest Itanium processor. The long-awaited dual-core version of Itanium was announced at a media event here where seven systems from different vendors shared the stage, representing some eight tons of computer hardware.
showed off its new Itanium2 9000 series, developed under the codename “Montecito,” with double the performance and a 20 percent drop in energy use versus the earlier single-core version. The 9000 series Itaniums also feature built-in virtualization for the first time. The flagship 9050 has triple the cache, 24 megabytes, of the earlier version.
The 9000 series was originally expected to ship last year but was beset
by development problems that caused several
delays. Pat Gelsinger, general manager of Intel’s Digital Enterprise
Group, acknowledged the long road to get to the 9000’s release, but said the
early feedback has been very positive.
“We’ve gone through the hard maturation of a new architecture and now end
users are saying, ‘Hey, this things rocks’,” said Gelsinger.
Intel called the 9000 the world’s most intricate product design and
Gelsinger said it’s a “technical tour-de-force.” It’s the only processor
with over a billion transistors; 1.72 billion to be exact. HP, Hitachi, NEC,
SGI, Bull, Fujitsu, Fujitsu Siemens and Unisys all showed systems expected
to ship later this summer.
The 9000 series includes five dual-core Itaniums with different
performance specs, from the high end 9050 to the low end 9015 (priced in
quantity at $3,692 to $749, respectively). Intel said pricing is in line with
the earlier single core Itanium. The 9040, with a smaller, 18 megabyte
cache but the same 1.6 GHz speed as the 9050, is priced at $1,980.
Gelsinger made a point of positioning Itanium systems for mission
critical computing tasks and noted its growing application base.
“Applications are now an incredibly strong part of the Itanium story, with
8,200 applications coming from thousands of companies.”
Intel executives also repeatedly hammered a theme of equating Itanium
with freedom for high performance computer customers.
“We’re saying freedom in the sense of enterprise customers having a
horizontal ecosystem and being able too choose from different vendors,” Kirk
Skaugen, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Server Platform
Group, told internetnews.com. “Itanium is an alternative for those
customers fed up with the high cost of proprietary solutions.”
Brian Cox, director of worldwide server marketing at HP, said Itanium is
offering a standard architecture for developers across multiple
vendors. “Basically, it’s a re-invention of the plug-compatible mainframe,”
IDC analyst Christopher Willard is more impressed with Itanium systems’
price/performance advantages than the choice of vendors.
“The high performance computing customer, in all our surveys, tends to be
far more interested in price/performance,” Willard told
internetnews.com. “These are big companies who tend to want to stay
with the vendors they are comfortable with and already have a relationship
with. That said, to the extent competition produces better products it’s
always a good thing.”
Business intelligence software company SAS is bullish on Itanium for
performance reasons. The SAS Enterprise Intelligence Platform has been
optimized for the 9000 series resulting in what the Cary, NC company said is
a significant improvement in performance. Jim Watts, the Intel Global
Alliance Manager at SAS, said Itanium systems are letting customers like the
U.S. Census ask questions it never would have been able to before.
“If they wanted to look at a year’s worth of data, it could take five to
six days to see results, but with these new systems it’s more like a day,”
Intel said 70 percent of the world’s Global 100 companies use
Itanium-based systems. An industry consortium, largely funded by Intel and
HP, has committed to spending $10 billion on hardware and development
support of the Itanium architecture through 2010.