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Intel to tout new dual-core Xeon at IDF

The chipmaker plans to announce that the dual-core chip for dual-processor servers is in production.

At its Intel Developer Forum next week, the chipmaker will announce it has begun production of "Dempsey," its first major version of the Xeon server chip to employ dual processing cores, people involved with the plan said.

Dempsey, a chip designed for the large and fast-changing dual-processor x86 server market, is a crucial part of Intel's product line and of a new effort to stem market share advances made by rival Advanced Micro Devices. Although Intel already sells its "Paxville" dual-core Xeon for dual-processor systems, it's a one-off model that originally was designed for four-processor machines and uses an earlier manufacturing process.

Intel spokesman Scott McLaughlin said the chipmaker plans to ship Dempsey this quarter. But sources familiar with the IDF event in San Francisco said Intel plans to announce it's in production now. Intel also is likely to highlight "Sossaman," a low-power but only a 32-bit dual-core Xeon, based on Intel's Yonah mobile processor and Dempsey's mainstream successor, "Woodcrest."

Dempsey, when combined with the "Blackford" chipset, forms the "Bensley" platform. Bensley systems support a new fully buffered memory system called FB-DIMM; Intel's virtualization technology to permit multiple operating systems to coexist more easily on the same server; I/O Acceleration Technology to speed networking and other input-output tasks; and Intel Active Management Technology to ease administration.

Woodcrest is due to arrive in the Bensley platform in the second half of 2006. Woodcrest is the first Xeon to use Intel's next-generation microarchitecture, a new core design derived from laptop chips that's engineered to consume less power for a given amount of performance.

Hewlett-Packard, the top seller of x86 servers, said Tuesday that it will begin selling Dempsey-based systems when the chip reaches volume manufacturing in May or June. It will follow suit with Woodcrest in the second half of 2006.

Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are battling to bring multicore processors to market, chips that can handle multiple tasks at the same time more gracefully. First out of the gate for server chips was AMD, which introduced dual-core Opteron chips in April 2005 and sped the chips up a notch in September.

Now the two companies are wrangling over performance claims and the merits of their competing designs. At the same time, though, the multicore push has injected new energy into an x86 market that had lacked a benchmark as easy to understand as the somewhat disgraced clock speed race.

"Multicore is the new megahertz," Insight64 analyst Nathan Brookwood said Monday in an introduction to a report that concluded AMD has significantly better multicore technology than Intel not just for current Xeon and Opteron models, but also for future models such as Intel's "Clovertown" with four cores.

According to an Intel road map seen in October, the chipmaker plans seven Dempsey models and will debut the new numerical naming scheme. The 5020, 5030, 5040 and 5050 all require a maximum of 95 watts of power and are connected to memory and other subsystems with a front-side bus running at 667MHz. The 5060 and 5070 consume 130 watts but have a faster 1066MHz front-side bus. Another model, the 5063 has the faster front-side bus but the lower power.

The processor speeds and prices from that roadmap were as follows: 5020--2.5GHz and $209; 5030--2.66GHz and $256; 5040--2.83GHz and $316; 5050--3GHz and $455; 5060--3.2GHz and $690; 5063--3.2GHz and $744; 5070--3.45GHz and $851.

The Sossaman chip, which consumes 31 watts and a 667Mhz front-side bus, had a price of $519.