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Intel plans party for new Xeon

The chipmaker will hold a coming out gala for its first high-end Xeon processors based around the new Pentium III on March 17 in San Francisco.

Intel will hold a coming out party for its first high-end Xeon processors based around the new Pentium III on March 17 in an event that will feature, among other technology demonstrations, servers running eight processors.

Xeon is Intel's answer for the server and workstation market. Xeon chips are essentially enhanced versions of the Pentium III chip found in desktop computers.

Xeon processors, for instance, come with up to 2MB of secondary cache, compared to 512KB of secondary cache found on desktop processors. The more cache, the better the chip's performance. The cache also communicates with the processor at twice the speed as in desktop chips.

According to the company, the performance enhancements have put Xeon in the same class as Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC) chips, the powerful processors that run many high-performance servers.

"The Intel architecture products have moved from last place to essentially first place," said Paul Otellini, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Business Group, who will preside over the St. Patrick's Day event.

The new Pentium III Xeons will run at 500 MHz and 550 MHz, said sources close to the company. The 500-MHz version of the chip will be available with secondary caches at 512KB, 1MB, and 2MB. The 550-MHz version will initially come out with a 512KB cache, with 1MB and 2MB models following.

More advanced multiprocessing remains another Xeon feature. Several server makers will likely release four-processor servers in conjunction with the chip. In the second quarter, a new chipset from Intel will allow server manufacturers to build eight-processor servers under a standard architecture. Some companies sell eight processor Intel-based servers now, but incorporate proprietary technology to make them work. Standardizing the architecture generally lowers the manufacturing cost, and hence is expected to bring more pressure onto RISC server vendors.

Xeons also cost several hundred and even thousands more dollars than Pentium III chips, so the introduction of new chips will become an important event in Intel's financial life. Last year, a glitch prevented Intel from shipping enough Xeons that could work in four-processor systems. The culmination of the eight-processor dream has slipped a number of times.

The chips will be availble on the 17th along with, in all likelihood, workstations and servers that use them. The event will take place at the Spectrum Gallery in San Francisco.