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Intel revs workstation, server chips

The company is set to announce 2.8GHz and 2.6GHz Xeon chips for single- and dual-processor workstations and servers next week.

Intel is in the midst of beefing up its processor lines for workstations and servers.

Next week at the Intel Developer Forum, the company will announce 2.8GHz and 2.6GHz Xeons for single- and dual-processor workstations and servers and reveal more details on chips coming in the near future, according to sources familiar with Intel's plans. Meanwhile, an energy-efficient 1.6GHz Xeon came out this week for blade servers.

The new chips will boost the performance of workstations, high-end desktops used for duties like product design, and servers, networked machines that can do everything from storing data to conducting online transactions.

Continually improving its Xeon chips--which are now built around the same basic architecture used for the desktop Pentium 4--is an important mission for Intel, analysts say, because of the higher prices Xeons command. Intel also sells far more server chips than anyone else and has managed to take increasing amounts of market share from traditional RISC/Unix manufacturers, especially in the one-, two- and four-processor market. Rival Advanced Micro Devices, meanwhile, has only recently begun to make an appreciable mark in servers.

"During the second quarter, Intel saw its server product line as being a source of strength," said Dean McCarron, analyst with Mercury Research.

Intel typically sells the chips for $50 to $100 more than Pentium 4 running at a corresponding clock speed. This helps boost profits, even though the company doesn't sell as many Xeons as Pentium 4s.

Currently, its fastest Xeon chip for single- and dual-processor workstations and servers runs at 2.4GHz.

Along with announcing the new chips at the conference, Intel will disclose more details on future chips, such as Gallatin, a forthcoming version of its Xeon MP processor for large servers with four or more chips, according to sources.

Gallatin will offer higher clock speeds and larger data caches for storing data close at hand, which will serve to boost performance, Intel has said.

Meanwhile, to help fill out its Xeon product line, Intel launched the new Low Voltage Xeon this week.

The new 1.6GHz chip consumes about 30 watts of power, about half the amount consumed by a regular Xeon. By being less power hungry, the chip runs cooler, allowing it to fit into the tight confines of blade servers, an emerging class of small, thin servers designed for special racks. They fit into a rack like books fit in a bookcase.

This new Low Voltage Xeon, which will list for $355, should be available in two to three weeks, Intel representatives said. It will replace similar offerings based on the Pentium III, with higher clock speeds and new features like hyperthreading, which boosts a chip's processing power.

Computer maker Nexcom, which manufactures servers, will be one of the first companies to offer the Low Voltage Xeon chip. It will sell the 1.6GHz chip in two different dual-processor blade servers, it said in a statement Wednesday.

Intel declined to comment on unannounced products.