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Commentary: McKinley's big impression

The second-generation processor in Intel's Itanium processor family offers important improvements over the first generation in raw processor power and adoption by OEMs.

By Martin Reynolds, Gartner Analyst

McKinley, the second-generation processor in Intel's Itanium processor family, offers important improvements over the first generation in raw processor power and adoption by original equipment manufacturers.

From a large-system perspective, the McKinley processor will have embedded mainframe-class reliability features that are required for applications in which data integrity and reliability cannot be compromised.

Moreover, McKinley's system bandwidth is roughly triple that of the first-generation Itanium processor (Merced). That bandwidth is critical for server applications and yields substantial performance advantages in a server environment. To support this higher-bandwidth bus, Intel has delivered an enhanced 3MB level three on-chip cache and performed a host of fine-tuning to the architecture that will increase performance 1.5 to 2 times over Itanium running current code.

See news story:
Intel's McKinley is one big chip
In addition, McKinley will enable a host of fine-tuning to the architecture, which will increase performance across the board and prepare for the next round of processor and clock-speed enhancements.

Those enhancements will make the McKinley chip relatively large. However, it will still be economically feasible to manufacture--even though it appears to be at the size limits of high-volume technology.

Surprisingly, the silicon size will add only a few tens of dollars to the raw manufacturing cost because most of the cost of such a processor is in design, validation, packaging, test and assembly.

One manufacturing issue with such a large die is that it occupies capacity that would otherwise go to higher-volume products. However, Intel has plenty of capacity, and McKinley volumes will be relatively small, so that is not a critical issue for Intel.

The Itanium update after McKinley is Madison, a 0.13-micron process device that will deliver higher clock frequencies and a smaller die size. For now, however, the economics of McKinley are just fine on the 0.18-micron lines.

(For a related commentary on servers powered by McKinley processors, see gartner.com.)

Entire contents, Copyright © 2002 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.