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Intel to debut new chip for four-processor servers

A member of the Gallatin family, the chip will run at 3GHz and include 4MB of level three cache.

Intel on Tuesday will unveil new Xeon processors for four-processor servers, marking the latest entrant in the increasingly competitive server market.

The chip, a member of the Gallatin family, will run at 3 gigahertz and include 4 megabytes of Level 3 cache, according to sources. Current Gallatin chips top out at 2.8GHz and have 2MB of cache.

Typically, faster speeds and more cache increase performance. Both chips share the same 533MHz bus.

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Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Unisys and others are expected to incorporate the chip into new servers relatively soon, sources said.

Although the new chip largely represents an upgrade to an existing chip, it could open an important market for Intel. The four-processor server space marks the front in the battle between traditional RISC/Unix servers and servers running so-called x86 chips, such as Xeon and Windows or Linux.

Servers with x86 chips now account for about 90 percent of server shipments, but most of these servers have only one or two chips. In terms of revenue, x86 servers only account for about half of annual industry revenue, because these machines sell for far less than the four- and eight-processor computers, in which RISC (reduced instruction set computer) chips remain entrenched.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker only comes out with new processors in this market every nine months or so--the 2.8GHz Gallatin came out in June 2003--because server manufacturers and customers don't want to continually test new parts. The existing 2.8GHz Gallatin costs $3,692 in quantities of 1,000.

AMD's Opteron can also be used in four-processor servers.

The new Intel chip will not include the 64-bit extensions announced in February. Those will first appear in Nocona, a Xeon for single and two-way servers.

Potomac, the successor to Gallatin coming next year, will be the first Xeon for four-processor servers to have this capability, CEO Craig Barrett said earlier this year.