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More Xeon systems arriving

IBM, Compaq, and others tout Xeon-based computers as Intel's high-end chip moves into volume production.

A variety of computers based on Intel's Xeon processor are coming to the market as the high-end server and workstation chip moves into volume production.

IBM tomorrow will release the Netfinity 7000M10 server, which can run two or four Xeon processors simultaneously, as well as the Netfinity 5500M10, which can handle one or two series of Xeon-based servers, according to sources. A two processor version of the 7000 with 384MB of memory will sell for around $20,000.

And last week, Compaq released a version of its Proliant 5500 server that can accommodate up to four Xeon chips; more Xeon-based workstations and servers are expected over the next few weeks from the firm. Meanwhile, Dell is expected to announce new Xeon workstations in the near future, according to sources.

Gateway also announced new Xeon servers today, the first Gateway servers to support four-way processing. The new Gateway ALR 9200 starts at $8,299 for a 400-MHz Xeon processor with 512K of ECC Cache, and $10,299 for a 400-MHz Xeon processor with 1MB of ECC Cache.

The new machines come as volumes of Xeon chips are becoming easier to find.

Although the Xeon chip was released at the end of June, supplies have generally been tight. Back orders for Xeon-based servers from Dell extended approximately six weeks long at one point during the summer, according to analysts. Major computer vendors at the time of the chip's launch admitted that they only a had a few hundred Xeon chips, less than usual with an Intel product release. Motherboard makers and chip brokers have reported difficulty in finding the chips.

Intel also was forced to postpone the release of servers that can handle four Xeons because of two separate bugs. The bugs exist in the chip itself but occur when the processor was used in conjunction with the 450NX chipset, which allows for four-way processing, according to Intel sources. A 450-MHz version has been delayed until next year to study the problem further.

The product shortages are easing up, however. "It should be hitting high volumes in the next few weeks," said Keith McCullough, vice president of corporate servers at Compaq.

Xeon chips currently run at 400 MHz and contain either 512KB or 1MB of secondary cache memory. Due in October are 450-MHz versions of the chip containing 512KB or 1MB of secondary cache that can be used in one- or two-processor configurations, according to sources in the server industry.

A 450-MHz Xeon that can be used in four-way servers will come out in the first part of 1999, said John Miner, vice president of the enterprise server group at Intel, while a version of Xeon that can be used in eight-way configurations will come out in the first half of the year. In addition, a 450-MHz version containing 2MB of secondary cache will appear in the first part of 1999.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.