Intel rolls out first Pentium processors with virtualization support

Santa Clara (CA) - Intel today announced its first desktop processors with virtualization technology (VT) - a new hardware and software component that allows users to run multiple operating systems in independent partitions or "containers." VT will trickle down Intel's processor portfolio, but will focus on CPUs that aim at the corporate market.

Platformization is the buzzword these days at Intel - and following this strategy to add more features and silicon to processors, the company today announced availability of the first desktop processors with integrated VT. Initially, the company offers only two versions in the aging Pentium 4 600 family - the 3.6 GHz Pentium 4 662 and the 3.8 GHz Pentium 4 672.

Besides the fact that those two processors now offer the capability to run multiple operating systems - and continue to work with the system even if one or more operating systems and applications have crashed - these new processors are identical with the 660 and 670 processors that come with a 800 MHz FSB, 2 MByte L2 cache, Hyperthreading, 64-bit extensions, XDbit support and dynamic clock speed scaling.

The reason that the company chose the 600 series as first VT processors is based on the fact that the architecture is Intel's most mature product and currently represents the firm's "transactional business platform" - the product line that is marketed to corporate markets which are most likely to take advantage of the VT feature. The phasing out Pentium 4 500 and soon-to-be-leaving Pentium D 800 series will not get VT support anymore, but Intel will introduce VT in most of its processors over time. This includes the upcoming Pentium D 900 series with Presler core and dual-core Yonah mobile CPUs. Further single core processors, including the upcoming 65 nm Pentium 4 ("Cedar Mill") are not planned to integrate VT.

According to Intel, virtualization support enables businesses to maintain full control of a portion of a PC to run security or management services without interrupting the end-user or allowing them to easily tamper with critical applications. Businesses can better protect themselves from malicious code or viruses by filtering network traffic through a separate IT partition before it reaches the user, the firm said.

AMD currently plans to introduce its virtualization technology "Pacifica" sometime in 2006, but declined in a conversation with TG Daily to provide any details beyond the plain intention to make the technology available in certain products.

Intel prices its 662 and 672 processors at $401 and $605, which means that VT is marketed as "free," as the 660 and 672 chips are listed for the same amounts. We expect this price to remain stable, since sources told TG Daily that the 65 nm 661 and 671 processor without VT support will be launched in January for $401 and $605 as well. This puts the VT processors at the very high end of Intel's desktop processor portfolio not only for now, but also for the near future: The likely higher performing dual-core Pentium D 900