Perhaps it was in observance of Halloween, but whatever the reason there was something a bit ghostly about Intel's October 31 announcement of its latest Itanium processor.
You had to peer hard to catch even a glimpse of the Intel Itanium Processor 9100 announcement--formerly known under the "Montvale" code name. Neither Intel nor HP (which sells something like 90 percent of the Itaniums that go out Intel's doors) held briefings on the new processor iteration, and even simple press releases dribbled out belatedly. It's the sort of treatment usually reserved for announcements of new sales offices or CEO speeches at obscure conferences. I suppose that they could have made the announcement on a Saturday if they wanted to be even more wraithlike--but this was pretty close.
To be sure, this was a fairly modest bump. Montvale barely edges its "Montecito" predecessor in frequency (1.66GHz vs. 1.6GHz, or about 4 percent). More important is the 667MHz front-side bus (FSB), which gives about 25 percent faster memory access. Reliability ("core-level lock-step") and power efficiency ("demand-based switching") tweaks round out the new features. Bigger changes await the future quad-core "Tukwila," due late 2008 or so; it will also sport an integrated memory controller and new serial interconnect.
One almost gets the sense that Intel and HP hoped that if they soft-pedaled this announcement, no one would notice and therefore, the usual suspects wouldn't revel in the opportunity to engage in Itanium-mocking. Well, that didn't work.