Intel tests samples of third Itanium chip

President Paul Otellini says "Madison" is "alive and wiggles." The company has produced samples of the chip and has booted up "multiple operating systems" on it.

Larry Dignan
2 min read
NEW YORK--Intel said Wednesday that it has produced samples of Madison, a third version of the Itanium processor, and has booted up "multiple operating systems" on it.

Intel President Paul Otellini, speaking at a press briefing at the Securities Industry Association Conference here, said Madison is "alive and wiggles" and that the company remains committed to the Itanium family.

"We will have (Madison) in production next year," Otellini said. "Itanium will be the enterprise architecture for the next decade."

Itanium is Intel's family of high-end server chips, built into machines that compete against the top-of-the-line Unix/RISC servers from Sun Microsystems, IBM and Hewlett-Packard. Itanium chips boast substantial performance benefits because they process data in 64-bit chunks, rather than the 32-bit packets handled by Intel's Pentium or Xeon chips.

The first version of Itanium didn't sell well, though. A second version--earlier code-named McKinley, but now known as Itanium 2--comes out next month. IBM, Unisys, Dell Computer and others are expected to launch servers containing four to 64 Itanium chips. The servers will start selling around $20,000.

Madison is an enhanced version of Itanium 2. The Itanium 2 is being manufactured on the 180-nanometer manufacturing process and contains a Level 3 cache--a pool of memory integrated into the processor for performance--of 1.5MB or 3MB. Madison will be made on the 130-nanometer process, which means the chip will be able to run at faster speeds and will be capable of holding 3MB or 6MB of Level 3 cache.

The nanometer measurement refers to the average size of components inside the chip. Smaller components are closer together, and it takes less time for data to move through and among them.

Deerfield, a low-power, cheaper Itanium chip, will appear around the same time as Madison. It will cost less and consume less energy but will come with less cache.

Otellini said Intel is not planning chips that can handle both 32-bit and 64-bit code. Bilingual chips, such as rival AMD's forthcoming Opteron, could be cheaper and easier for corporations to adopt, analysts have said, because much existing software will work on them.

To get the full performance benefit out of Itanium, customers need brand-new software written for the chip. Sources have said that Intel is working on a chip, code-named Yamhill, that could read both types of software, although the chip won't come out unless Itanium sales really plummet.

By forgoing greater compatibility, Itanium can provide greater performance and "all the other things people care about," Otellini said.

Nevertheless, Otellini said Intel has reserved patents to extend its 32-bit Pentium and Xeon chips to handle 64-bit code.

News.com's Michael Kanellos contributed to this report.