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Intel Itanium to go quad-core in early 2009

Alliance to promote use of Itanium says quad-core version of chip will come out in early 2009, discloses more than a 30 percent jump in volume growth year to year.

UPDATE An alliance to promote the use of Intel's Itanium processor said a quad-core version of the chip will come out in early 2009. The alliance also disclosed more than a 30 percent jump in volume growth year to year and an update to its partnership with Microsoft, among other announcements.

Itanium is an Intel 64-bit architecture for high-end servers. It differs from the x86 architecture, widely used in PCs. One principal difference is the way the compiler is used. Because the compiler makes decisions about the parallel execution of instructions, the processor can execute up to six instructions per clock cycle.

Itanium Solutions Alliance

The quad-core version of the Itanium, code-named Tukwila, will come out in early 2009 and be one of the first "monolithic" quad-core designs from Intel, said Rob Shiveley, worldwide marketing manager of the Mission Critical Server Platform Group at Intel. A monolithic design puts all four cores on one piece of silicon (called a die). To date, Intel has built its quad-core processors by combining two dual-core processor dies. AMD's "Barcelona" Opteron quad-core design puts all four processors on one die.

This will give system vendors the ability to deliver eight-socket systems with up to 32 cores (4 cores per socket), said Mike Mitsch, General Manager, Enterprise Servers, IT Platform Group, NEC Corporation of America.

Tukwila will also have an integrated memory controller and QuickPath Interconnect technology, Shiveley said. This will increase the data transfer rate within the processor. Intel's "Nehalem" processor--due in the fourth quarter of this year--will also be a monolithic design with an integrated memory controller and QuickPath Interconnect technology.

On-chip cache memory for Tukwila will also be increased from 24MB to 30MB. "It is focused on database performance"--that's what the large 30MB cache is for, Shiveley said. Windows Itanium platforms are used, for example, to consolidate a larger number of SQL database servers.

Using two billion transistors (the bulk of the transistors are allocated to the large cache memory), Tukwila will be based on Intel's 65nm process technology and will initially have a clock speed of up to 2GHz at both 170 watts and 130 watts.

NEC's Mitsch said Itanium also supports extremely robust error detecting and error correcting memory. "We're in the process of qualifying up to two terabytes of logical (memory)," he said.

On another front, the Itanium Solutions Alliance announced that worldwide annual Itanium-based factory system revenue and system volume continued to grow in 2007, with a year-over-year increase of 30.8 and 36.3 percent, respectively. The Asia-Pacific region led the way, with year-over-year growth in factory system revenue and system volume of 61 percent and 45 percent, respectively. In Japan, Itanium-based revenue exceeds all other non x86 server platforms, the alliance said.

The alliance also said it is collaborating with Microsoft to deliver new programs and tools to help businesses migrate from "costly legacy RISC systems and mainframes" to Itanium-based platforms. Currently, a fourth of the more than 13,000 Itanium-based applications are Windows Server-based, the alliance said.

Other recent developments include: an NEC enterprise server with dynamic hardware partitioning functionality for Microsoft Windows Server 2008--the NEC Express5800/1320Xf. Sun Microsystems previewed Itanium-optimized Java SE 6 running on an Itanium-based server in several different SOA (service-oriented architecture) scenarios.