Everything Itanium for Intel

The much-ballyhooed Itanium 2 Processor from Intel Corporation makes its official debut this week following a flurry of media hype and expectation that it will soon outpace competitive offerings from rivals Sun Microsystems and Advanced Micro Devices and become the processor platform of choice for the high-end data computing industry.

Following the splashy May, 2002 release of the Itanium processor line, touted by Intel as a high-end complement to its Intel Pentium line of microprocessors, the 64-bit Itanium 2 is the second generation of the Itanium family that supports high-performance computing applications, complex calculations, and vast amounts of data and users, according to Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel.

Itanium 2-based systems and software will be released over the next few months, with servers and workstations becoming available sometime next year.

But competition is stiff and the microprocessor playing field, while dominated on the low-end by Intel chip products (approximately 80 percent of market share), is not necessarily ready for another prominent player.

As it stands, Sun recently beefed up its development strategy for its UltraSparc line of high-powered processor chips, and Advanced Micro Devices is reportedly on the verge of releasing its own line of 64-bit chips for the server and workstation market, leaving questions as to whether Intel can nudge its way into the more lucrative end of the market or not.

The Itanium 2’s release has so far been greeted by wide industry support from heavyweights such as Microsoft , Oracle , IBM , and BEA , all of whom are in the process of building commercial software applications for Itanium 2-based systems.

The Itanium 2’s architecture was co-developed with Hewlett-Packard, and as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), HP will use the technology in its future systems, along with IBM, Unisys, SGI, and Toshiba, and many others.

This week HP announced a new line of Itanium-based servers and workstations, and Microsoft is reportedly planning to introduce versions of Windows.Net Datacenter and Enterprise Server for the Itanium 2 processor. HP was also reported as saying to Dow Jones that at least 50 percent of its workstation customers in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa are expected to “migrate” to titanium-based workstations by the middle of 2004.

The Itanium processor family already powers the operating systems of Microsoft’s Windows Advanced Server, Limited Edition, and Windows XP 64-Bit Edition; Red Hat, SuSE, and TurboLinux.

While current server and workstations run on 32-bit microprocessors with a maximum of four gigabytes of memory, the new Itanium 2 is able to work with hundreds of gigabytes of memory and will feature 3 MB and 1.5 MB of integrated L3 cache and 1 GHz and 900 MHz frequency speeds, according to Intel.

Prices range from $1,338 to $4,226 per chip and servers that include the Itanium 2 processor will sell for somewhere in the low $40,000 range.

The processor also enables extensive error detection and correction on all of the processor’s major data structures and an advanced Machine Check Architecture for intelligent error management and recovery of complex platform errors to prevent data loss, corruption, and down time.

Later this year, Intel will release the Intel E8870, a pre-built chipset for companies seeking to incorporate the Itanium 2 architecture into their own systems more readily and cheaply. The E8870 chipset can support systems with two to 16 processors, and more processors per system using OEM custom switches.

Intel will also offer an Itanium 2-based building block platform to systems builders and products integrators in the second half of this year, which will be a 4-way, 4U server platform for the enterprise and high performance computing markets.

Intel is in the process of developing five additional Itanium processor products that will be released over the course of the next five years, according to Intel. The company’s next Itanium generations, code named Madison and Deerfield, will be released in 2003, to be followed by Intel’s Montecito chip in 2004.

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