Intel names top Itanium target: IBM

"For Intel, that was foaming at the mouth," one analyst says after execs single out Power chip as Itanium's chief rival.

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Stephen Shankland
3 min read
SAN FRANCISCO--Intel and IBM have long had competing processors for the server market, but Intel executives on Tuesday began overtly naming Big Blue as the prime target of the Itanium processor family.

Pat Gelsinger and Abhi Talwalkar, who jointly lead the digital enterprise group, called out IBM's Power processor as Itanium's chief foe more than once during speeches at the Intel Developer Forum here. The move came a week after IBM acknowledged that it has stopped designing the server components at the heart of its own Itanium servers.

"It's a two-horse race. It's Power and Itanium," Gelsinger said. "It's not particularly surprising they're not pursuing Itanium when their motivation is Power."

And Talwalkar said of Itanium that "the primary focus and competition is primarily Power."

It's not exactly bare-knuckle boxing, but the words were strong given the close partnership between the companies for use of Intel's other server processor, Xeon, a close relative of Pentium. "For Intel, that was foaming at the mouth," said Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff.

IBM didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Intel missed its Itanium shipment goals for 2004, but the company is still investing in the technology, arguing that a "one size fits all" approach employing only x86 chips such as Pentium and Xeon wouldn't work to take on Power and another competitor, Sparc chips from Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu. To telegraph the company's Itanium commitment, Gelsinger also revealed a new high-end Itanium processor code-named Poulson.

Gelsinger offered almost no details about Poulson other than the fact that it would arrive after the 2007 Itanium version code-named Tukwila and would fit into the Tukwila server platform, code-named Richford.

But he did say it would depart significantly from Tukwila. "It's not just a minor revision. It will be a major development," Gelsinger said.

Intel's roadmap for Xeon
Also at the show, Intel released a large dose of plans for its Xeon server processors through 2007. The plans included both classes of Xeons, the DP models for dual-processor machines and the MP models for servers with four or more processors.

"They've got some confidence again in what they're doing," said Insight 64 analyst Nathan Brookwood. One of the reason Intel didn't share them in the past: "I think they were unsure where they were going."

Intel's new roadmaps correspond to the chipmaker's new focus on platforms--the combination of a processor and the chipset that connects the processor to memory and other computer subsystems. Previously, the processor and chipsets were developed separately, but the company has merged the work to try to better meet customer needs.

The nearest-term Xeon products are MP models that are part of the Truland platform arriving in coming weeks. The higher-end Potomac version of Xeon will have as much as 8MB of high-speed cache memory, Gelsinger said in an interview. It will be mated to a lower-end Cranford model with less cache.

The Truland systems will be the first time the 64-bit memory addressing technology arrives in the Xeon MP line. The chips also come with demand-based switching, which saves power by slowing the processor when it's idle.

Truland will be updated in 2005 and 2006 with new models code-named Paxville and Tulsa, Gelsinger said. These models will be dual-core designs with two processing engines on one slice of silicon.

Then in 2007, a new Xeon MP platform will be introduced, code-named Reidland and using a processor code-named Whitefield employing more than two cores.

For the Xeon DP line--where the bulk of Intel's Xeon sales take place--dual-core chips will arrive sooner. The Bensley platform is scheduled to arrive in the first quarter of 2006 with a processor code-namd Dempsey and a chipset code-named Blackford. A variation of Bensley called Glidewell also will be available for workstations.

Gelsinger demonstrated a Bensley system Tuesday.

Bensley and Glidewell will debut three new Intel technologies: Intel Virtualizatoin Technology to run multiple operating systems simultaneously; Input/Output Acceleration Technology (I/OAT) to speed networking; and Intel Advanced Management Technology (IAMT) to ease remote control of computers.