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Intel trickles out details on future Itaniums

Everyone's favorite whipping boy, Intel's Itanium server processor, is still on the road map well into the next decade.

At this point, making jokes about Intel's Itanium server processor is an old act, so we'll just pass along the small nuggets of new information Intel chose to reveal Thursday.

Intel's Itanium road map has a new code name: Kittson. That's all Intel chose to reveal about the processor that will take Itanium into the next decade. Kittson will follow Poulson, which follows Tukwila in 2008, which follows Montvale later this year.

Poulson will be interesting because Intel is making a number of changes to the instructions that provide the marching orders for the chip. Of course, they didn't go into any details about those instructions, but you can think of them sort of like software-compatible extensions to Itanium's EPIC (explicitly parallel instruction computing) instruction set, said Rory McInerney, director of Itanium development at Intel.

Poulson will also skip a chip-manufacturing generation. Intel plans to build Poulson using its 32-nanometer manufacturing technology. Tukwila, which precedes Poulson, will be built on the 65-nanometer generation. Intel said it's skipping 45 nanometers because the 32-nanometer technology will be ready around the time Poulson is ready, which is a byproduct of the myriad delays that have beset the processor family over the last few years.

Don't expect Poulson before 2010, as Intel would be foolish to qualify its 32-nanometer manufacturing technology slated for late 2009 on an Itanium processor, which ships in small volumes compared to the rest of Intel's products. It will have more than Tukwila's four cores, but McInerney declined to say how many and would not confirm when it will arrive.

The rest of Intel's presentation was the same tired old Powerpoint dump on Itanium momentum, system revenue and "open standards." Intel never reveals the actual unit growth for Itanium, just revenue growth, which as Charlie Demerjian over at the Inquirer notes, makes it hard see any real "momentum" behind Itanium.

Intel once hoped Itanium would take the world forward to 64 bits, but it's had to settle for a niche in high-end servers. That's a profitable niche, to be sure, but unit-wise it's a really small portion of the overall server market.