As previously reported, a 1-GHz CPU has more psychological value than practical utility because of bottlenecks talking to memory and other components in a computer. Nevertheless, the milestone highlights Intel's ability to continue advancing its manufacturing methods even for Xeon chips, which are sold to more demanding and conservative customers.
Xeons are used primarily in servers, the computers that are the brains of computer networks, said Tom Garrison, director of product marketing for Intel's 32-bit chips. The chip also is sold for users of workstations, the high-performance desktop computers used by designers, engineers and scientists.
The 1-GHz speed applies only to the models of Xeon that have 256K of secondary cache, the high-speed memory that eases delays that result from talking to ordinary, slower-speed memory. In addition, the 1-GHz chips can be used in two-processor systems.
"This is the first gigahertz dual-processor (CPU) in the industry," Garrison said.
The new Xeons cost $719 in quantities of 1,000, spokesman Otto Pipjker said.
More expensive Xeons come with as much as 2MB of cache and can be used in four-processor configurations. The right chipset, Intel's Profusion design, allows two four-processor units to be grouped into an eight-CPU system.
Xeons differ from ordinary Pentium chips because Intel manufactures them for a longer time, a move that accommodates customers' more careful and protracted software and hardware testing period. Those long qualification times led Intel to cancel an 800-MHz version of the large-cache Xeons, which top out at a speed of 700 MHz.
Intel servers gradually are growing up compared with competing designs from Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq Computer and others. A next-generation Xeon code-named "Foster" is due next year that removes many of the bottlenecks that hamper current chips.
Another improvement over regular Pentium chips is a feature that makes it easier to monitor the temperature of the CPU and switch on more fans when necessary.
Akamai, a company that speeds the transfer of information around the Internet, plans to buy 300 Xeon-based servers each month, Garrison said.