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Intel to release Itanium 2 at two speeds

Sources say the giant's upcoming chip for high-end servers will come out at 900MHz and 1GHz and cost about the same as existing Itanium chips.

Intel's upcoming Itanium 2 processor will come out at 900MHz and 1GHz, according to sources, and cost about the same as existing Itanium chips.

In all, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker will release three versions of the 64-bit chip for high-end servers next week: a 1GHz version containing 3MB of level three cache memory, a 1GHz version containing 1.5MB of cache, and a 900MHz version containing 1.5MB of cache.

The cache-speed variations will allow Intel to sell the chip at different prices, depending on performance. Increasing the clock frequency, measured by megahertz, generally increases performance, as does increasing the size of the cache, a reservoir of memory for rapid data access.

Prices will range from about $1,300 for the 900MHz version to $4,200 for the 1GHz version with the 3MB cache, according to sources close to the company. Intel had announced the 1GHz chips earlier.

Current Itanium processors sell for between $1,177 and $4,227.

An Intel representative declined to comment on the release date, prices, or the existence of the 900MHz version of the chip but reiterated that the chips with the different cache sizes are geared to different markets.

"In mission-critical areas, cache is king," the representative said.

Itanium 2, formerly code-named McKinley, is designed to run in workstations and high-end servers containing four to 64 processors. Servers that contain the chip will compete against machines from Sun Microsystems and IBM.

While servers containing Intel chips make up the majority of the server market in terms of units, Intel has yet to make a huge dent in the upper echelons of the market. Sixty percent of the revenue spent on servers, in fact, goes to non-Intel machines.

The first Itanium chip, released a little more than a year ago, has not sold well. The Itanium 2, however, has been redesigned and will provide better performance, Intel has said. IBM and Hewlett-Packard are expected to announce servers based on the chip next week although Dell Computer has said it has no plans yet to adopt Itanium 2.