Intel releases six new Itanium 2 processors

Santa Clara (CA) - Intel refreshed its Itanium 2 lineup with six new processors ranging from the high-performing Madison 9M chip used in the recently announced Columbia supercomputer to a low-voltage for dense form factors such as blade servers. Volume shipments of the dual-core Itanium "Montecito" are expected late 2005 or early 2006.

Continuing its strategy challenge existing RISC architectures, Intel on Monday announced six new Itanium 2 processors. In the high performance segment targeting mainframe systems, the company announced two MP 1.6 GHz versions with 9 and 6 MByte L3 cache as well as a 1.5 GHz model with 4 MByte L3 cache.

The new high-end model, dubbed "Madison 9M", already has been unofficially announced a little over a week ago as core processor for NASA's Columbia supercomputer. The cluster system consists of 20 SGI-built systems, each with 512 Madison 9M processors. The early announcement allowed Intel to surpass the currently fastest supercomputer in the upcoming list of the world's 500 fastest supercomputers, which is expected to be released on Tuesday. However, the Columbia installation already has been outpaced by IBM's Blue Gene/L system.

In the medium segment for servers with dual processors (DP), the company adds two 1.6 GHz Itaniums with 3 MByte L3 cache and 400 or 533 MHz front side bus. For dense form factors such as blade servers as well as low-cost servers, Intel introduced a Low Voltage Itanium 2 with 1.30 GHz and 3 MB L3 cache and a power envelope of 62W compared to 130W of the MP Itanium 2 and 99W of the DP Itanium 2.

Abhi Talkwalkar, vice president and general manager of Intel's Enterprise Platforms Group said, that the new processors continue to accelerate the firm's strategy to move users from traditional RISC and mainframe environments to the Itanium 2 platform through increased reliability and a focus on a value proposition. According to Talwalkar, more than 40 of Global 100 companies so far have deployed Itanium 2 systems and 61 systems are among the 500 fastest supercomputers.

Prices of the new processor stay in the range of the current price list. The 1.6 GHz 9M version lists for $4226 or $1 less than the previous flagship with 1.5 GHz and 6 MByte L3 cache. The 1.6 GHz model with 6 MByte L3 cache is priced at $1980, 4 MByte drops the price to $910.

DP Itaniums start $1172 for the 533 MHz Itanium 2 with 1.6 GHz and 3 MByte L3 cache. The 400 MHz-FSB model runs for $851. The entry level Itanium 2 with 1.30 GHz and 3 MB L3 is listed at $530.

Talwalkar also gave a glimpse on what to expect with the next generation of the Itanium platform, code named "Montecito". The chip will run four threads per socket and achieve about 1.5 to two times the performance of comparable Itanium 2 versions. End user qualification of the chip is planned for the second half of 2005, volume production and availability is targeted for "the end of 2005 and early 2006," Talwalkar said.