Intel launches first dual-core Xeon processor, challenges AMD's Opteron

San Francisco (CA) - "Paxville" is Intel's first shot in the volume server and workstation segment: The new processor, in its core a version of the Pentium D 800 series, will go head-to-head with AMD's dual-core Opteron, so far the only dual-core option for servers and workstations. Intel announced that it will use aggressive pricing to push Paxville into the market.

Despite Intel had moved the launch date of Paxville form Q1 2006 to October, the processor is late, at least as far as the competitive situation is concerned. AMD chose to launch the dual-core Opteron ahead of the X2 desktop processor - as multithreaded applications primarily are available in the corporate space today - and was able to sell into this segment for the past month virtually unchallenged.

Paxville is Intel's first contender and most likely will not stay for very long. The chip aims at dual-processor servers and is based on the Pentium D 800 with Smithfield core, which in turn is based on two Prescott cores with 64-bit extensions. The new processor will be simply called "Dual-core Xeon 2.8 GHz", and fit into the "Lindenhurst" and "Truland" platform currently combined with the single-core Xeons "Irwindale" (DP) and "Potomac" (MP). The processor carries 2 x 2 MByte L2 cache.

Interestingly, Paxville is launched with an "old" platform that does not support a dual-core Xeon requirement Intel stated earlier this year. Larry Gray, senior performance analyst for Intel's enterprise platform performance group told us in April that the company considered "FB-DIMMs at the time of the introduction of Xeon dual-cores" as critical. "You need to be able to intercept a platform at the right time and this was not the case here," justified Gray Intel's reasons for not having introduced a dual-core Xeon earlier.

For now, dual-core Xeon customers will have to work without FB-DIMMs and work with up to 16 GByte DDR2-400 memory provided by Truland. Other features of the platform include Hyperthreading, demand-based switching as power management technology, and the E7520 chipset. Within 60 days, Intel plans to ship the multi-processor (MP) version of Paxville, which will carry a "7000" series designation. The new chip will come with speeds up to 3 GHz, 667 MHz and 800 MHz FSB, and support for the current E8500 (667 MHz) and the upcoming E8501 (800 MHz) chipsets. While not officially announced, sources told TG Daily that the initially Paxville MP lineup will include the models 7020 (2.66 GHz, 667 MHz FSB), 7030 (2.8 GHz/667 MHz), 7040 (3.0 GHz/667 MHz) and 7041 (3.0 GHz/800 MHz).

Intel promises of the new DP dual-core Xeon a speed improvement of about 50 percent, if compared to the current single-core Xeon. With support of Hyperthreading and a maximum of two processors per system, a Paxville-based server will be able to handle up to 8 threads simultaneously. Up to 32 Xeon 7000 chips within one system will be able to process a maximum of 128 threads.

During the first quarter of 2006, Intel will replace the Dual-core Xeon 2.8 GHz with a new processor that currently is codenamed "Dempsey" and later will carry the designation "5000 series." The Lindenhurst/Truland platform will be succeeded by "Bensley" that will bring support for up to 64 GByte FB-DIMM memory.

Intel officials announced that the company will use aggressive pricing to catch up with AMD's dual-core Opteron chip. However, the current price of $1043 (in 1000 unit quantities) may not be attractive enough for fence-sitters: AMD sells its dual-core Opteron 275 (2.2 GHz) for $1051, the 270 (2.0 GHz) model for $851 and the 265 (1.8 GHz) for $690.

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