Intel plans nine flavors of 'Montecito' Itanium

Plans to unveil chips with three models running at 1.6GHz and 1.4GHz, but by end of first half of next year, at least six more set to appear.

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Intel is expected to begin the introduction of its "Montecito" processors with three models running at 1.6GHz and 1.4GHz, but by the end of the first half of next year, at least six more are scheduled to arrive.

The broad portfolio is shown in an Intel road map seen by CNET News.com. The plan also shows an even broader portfolio of Xeons, a vastly more popular server chip that unlike Itanium can run the same software as other x86 chips such as Pentiums.

The road map also shows that Itanium clock speeds will get a 200MHz boost from the addition of Intel's new "Foxton" technology, which lets chips run faster as long as they don't get too hot.

Montecito, the first major redesign of Itanium in years, is the first in the family to come with two processing engines on one slice of silicon--a design called dual-core that rival chips from Sun Microsystems and IBM have had for years. Despite the significant change, Intel is retaining the Itanium 2 moniker, though augmented with a 9000-series numbering scheme.

Intel declined to comment for this story.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker plans to ship Montecito in limited quantities this year, with full volume beginning in the first quarter of 2006. But the chip family was hit by delays, poor initial performance and software incompatibilities, and Intel has struggled to achieve mainstream acceptance.

"Montecito is a fundamentally new, true dual-core design. It does get significant performance advantages over the previous single-core parts," said Peter Glaskowsky, an analyst at Envisioneering Group and system architect at MemoryLogix. Unfortunately for Intel, though, there are many fewer customers for the chip than the company would like, he added.

In the meantime, Sun and IBM have grown more aggressive, releasing new UltraSparc and Power models that, like Montecito, use an improved manufacturing process with 90-nanometer features. And AMD has had success bringing higher-end features to x86 with its Opteron server chip.

Hewlett-Packard, which initiated the Itanium project and co-developed the initial chips, is the major Itanium server seller, though Unisys, Silicon Graphics, NEC, Hitachi and Fujitsu also offer machines with the chip. IBM and Dell have dropped Itanium-based products from their server lines.

But Intel isn't shying away from the Itanium challenge. After the Montecito models in the first half of 2006, the company will release a revamp code-named Montvale in the second half.

The first three Montecitos, the single-core 1.6GHz 9010, dual-core 1.4GHz 9020 and dual-core 1.6GHz 9040, will get a Foxton bump to 1.8GHz, 1.6GHz and 1.8GHz, respectively, the road map said.

The 9020 and 9040 have 18MB of on-board high-speed cache memory, while the 9010 has 6MB, according to the road map.

In addition, Intel is working on a low-voltage dual-core Montecito model, the 9018, with a speed of 1.2GHz, a Foxton boost up to 1.4GHz, 12MB of cache and a 400MHz bus, the road map said. It's also due in the second quarter and consumes a maximum of 62 watts, considerably less than the 130-watt peak of the higher-end Itanium models.

The top-end Montecito
In the second quarter, a new top-end Itanium is expected: the 1.8GHz 9055, with 24MB of cache and a Foxton boost up to 2GHz, the top speed Intel has so far given for the chip.

In the second quarter, the 9010, 9020 and 9040 also will get a faster front-side bus--the connection between the chip and the rest of the system--that runs at 667MHz compared with 400MHz and 533MHz for the first-quarter Montecito models. Those new versions will be called the 9011, 9021 and 9041, the road map said.

And though Montecito is a dual-core design, Intel will ship new single-core models in the second quarter, the 9010 and 9011 that run at 1.6GHz, have 6MB of cache, and are boosted to 1.8GHz with Foxton. The 9011 differs from the 9010 in its support of the faster front-side bus.

In the midrange, the 9030 and 9031 will run at 1.7GHz, include 8MB of cache and have a Foxton kicker to 1.8GHz. The 9031 supports the higher-speed bus.

Dempsey leads Xeon debut
Intel announced its first dual-core Xeon on Monday, a model code-named Paxville geared for dual-processor servers. But the real mainstream dual-core onslaught begins with "Dempsey" beginning in the first quarter of 2006.

Dempsey models will be part of the 5000 series of Xeons, and at least six models, all with dual 2MB caches, will debut in the first quarter. In order of high-end to low-end, they are, according to the road map:

• The 5070, which has a clock speed of 3.46GHz, a front-side bus running at 1066MHz and a price in units of 1,000 of $851.

• The 5060, which is 3.2GHz with a 1066MHz bus and a $690 price tag.

• The 5050--3GHz with a 667MHz bus and a price of $455.

• The 5040--2.83GHz with a 667MHz bus and a $316 price.

• The 5030, which is 2.66GHz with a 667MHz bus and a $256 price.

• The 5020--2.5GHz with a 667MHz bus and $209 price.

The top-end Dempsey clock speeds are a notch faster that the 3GHz maximum Intel described Monday at the Paxville launch.

Dual-core Xeons coming sooner at the high end
The version of Paxville for dual-processor servers is available now, but the chip was originally designed for the servers with four or more processors. According to the road map, there are four such models arriving soon, all members of the 7000 series.

The top-end 7041 runs at 3GHz with an 800MHz bus speed, dual 2MB caches and a $3,157 price starting Nov. 1, according to the road map. The 7040 is the same but with a 667MHz bus speed.

The 7030 has a clock speed of 2.8GHz, an 800MHz bus speed, dual 1MB caches and a $1,980 price. The 7020 has a speed of 2.66Ghz, a 667MHz bus, dual 1MB caches and a $1,177 price, according to the road map.

Paxville's successor, code-named Tulsa, will come with as much as 16MB of cache, the road map said.

Kai Schmerer of ZDNet Germany reported from Munich.