Intel’s ‘Gallatin’ a Warm Up for ‘Nocona’


On the road to releasing its next generation Xeon processor, Intel is taking a little side trip along its current generation of
workhorse server chips.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip making giant is expected to announce a
substantial upgrade to its Xeon processor family specifically its “Gallatin”
version. The multi-core processor’s current configuration runs at 2.8GHz
with 2MB Level 3 cache.


During a presentation Tuesday broadcast from Thomson
Financial in New York, the improved Gallatin will be unveiled at speeds of
3GHz with double the amount of L3 cache — to 4MB. The upgrade was planned last year. The chips are expected to find their way into 4-way and larger
servers.

Already partners are coming out in support of the new chip. including
systems integrator Unisys. as well as vendors Dell
and Hewlett-Packard .

While a speed bump and a memory increase is not earth shattering news, it
does indicate that the chipmaking giant sees a market need for fast 32-bit
multi-processor systems until its 64-bit “Nocona” Xeon debuts this summer.


Last month, Intel announced
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.

“The world doesn’t stop just because Intel said it is going to put 64-bit
extensions into future processors. Upgrades will go on,” Illuminata analyst
Gordon Haff told internetnews.com. “If there are interim process
announcements, those would be dictated by technical advancements not
marketing ones.”

So why continue to build out the Gallatin subset? A pressing technical
need, surmised Haff, to cover a gap in multi-processor systems primarily
running Windows applications. Specifically, Windows Server 2003-related
ones.

“There is always a phase out time involved with each architecture. Nocona
will take over from current processors fairly quickly, but not entirely,”
Haff said.

Microsoft has moved to pledge support for all 64-bit x86 systems
including “Nocona” Xeon processors as well as AMD’s
Opteron. However, the Redmond, Wash.-based software vendor is not expected
to have its full versions available until the second half of this year.

“One of the benefits of the x86 64-bit enhanced chips is that there is no
penalty in taking Nocona and using them as 32-bit processors,” Haff said.

The Gallatin chips would also be a bigger boon for companies running
Windows systems than, say, Linux-based ones.

The multi-processor space is not for Linux as much as it is for Windows,”
Haff said. “Linux is not used as much in the application tier or the
database tier. Their real volume focus is in Web tier and network tier
systems that are closer to the network edge.”

The other area of high interest for the new Gallatin chips, Haff
suggests, is in 4-way Xeon systems, the darling of high performance
computing .

As for forcing a price war against its own processor families, Haff
points out that Intel has been fairly consistent with its price points
despite adding higher frequencies. The company has even suggested that its
EPIC-based architecture Itanium line would see a meeting in the middle with
higher-end Xeon processors. But that is not expected to happen for some
time.

Later this year, Intel’s roadmap will introduce its Xeon “Potomac” and
new chipsets for all server sizes with PCI-Express support.

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