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.
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Intel's McKinley is one big chip
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.)
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