Intel Roadmap News 10/2000: Part Two, Intel's Future Mobile and Server/Workstation Products

Future Workstation And Server Products

Workstation And Server Processors

At this stage I actually don't know how many systems are using Intel's Pentium III Xeon processors, but you certainly don't hear much about those Slot2-CPUs, you don't get many review-requests for them and basically one wonders if Intel is doing any kind of major business with 'Xeon'. I also remember the time when Intel offered 'Xeons' with 133 MHz FSB, which are actually nothing else than a slightly modified Coppermine-Pentium III, although there weren't any platforms available for these processors at all. Finally the story changed a bit since ServerWorks is offering a chipset that can host Pentium III Xeon processors at 133 MHz FSB. Intel is still not supplying chipsets for this processor, which should be considered odd enough.

Now although 'Xeon' seems to spend a life in the shadows, Intel is still having big plans for the next 'Xeon'-generation, which will obviously be based on the upcoming Pentium 4 core. The high-end version of Pentium 4 is currently known under the name 'Foster ' and it is supposed to be launched at 1.7 GHz or more in Q1/2001 for single processor mode only . This Forster-version will be pretty much identical to the normal Pentium 4-core 'Willamette', as it is also equipped with 256 kB 2nd level cache and no 3rd level cache at all. The VRM 9.0 voltage spec for Foster is speaking of hefty numbers. The voltage requirement lies between 1.575 and 1.7 V , the maximum current is 60 Ampere and Forster is supposed to be a rather excellent heater element with 62.8 W TDP . It will be using a 603-pin socket , but don't hold your breath for that anyway, since you bet that this socket will be changed again once 'Prestonia' replaces 'Foster' shortly after 'Northwood' replaces 'Willamette'. The second quarter of 2001 is supposed to see Foster at 2 GHz or more, this time as single-only as well as dual-processor version, but still with the 256 kB L2-cache only. In Q3 Foster is finally supposed to become a real server CPU. The roadmap is promising full multi processor versions of Foster with 512 kB - 1 MB 3rd level cache, but this time running at 1.3 and 1.4 GHz only. 'Prestonia' will probably follow soon, as Q3/2001 is the time when Pentium 4 'Willamette' will be replaced by 'Northwood' so we can expect 'Prestonia right afterwards in Q4/2001.

So far about Intel's 32 bit processors, but what about the upcoming 64 bit monster by the lovely name of 'Itanium'? Well, Itanium (is there honestly anyone still interested ...?) will actually be released in the next few days, weeks or months, but only as a 'pilot run' at some mediocre 733 MHz. Q1/2001 will then see Itanium at the blazing speed of 800 MHz, which will make a lot of people yawn, because at the same time Pentium 4 is supposed to reach 1.7 GHz and thus more than double the clock rate of Itanium. Finally there's 'McKinley' , the processor that many see as Intel's 'real' 64 bit processor. McKinley won't be released before Q4/2001 though, if Intel should stick to its forecast in the 64 bit arena for the first time.

Workstation And Server Chipsets

As we just talked of 'Itanium' I just want to mention the chipset for this processor, which is the '460GX'. This chipset should already be available and its specs should be known. McKinley will get a new chipset named 'i870', which won't be available before the end of 2001. Unfortunately I can't give you any details about i870 except one interesting bit. Intel is planning two different versions of i870. One will be for McKinley and thus for IA64 (Intel's 64 bit technology) and another version will be for IA32 (32 bit).

The workstation version of Foster is supposed to work with the i860-chipset, which will be released in Q1/2001 along with this new Pentium 4 Xeon processor. I expect it to be a beefed up version of i850, which will probably only support RDRAM memory as well.

The server chipset roadmap looks rather odd. Intel is hardly supplying any of the chipsets. The reason for that can only be the unholy Intel-Rambus deal . In the server area there's simply NO interest in RDRAM-based platforms, so that Intel would have to supply alternative chipsets that support different memory than RDRAM. This would interfere with the Rambus-deal, which is why you can find 'Third Party' all over the place in this roadmap slide:

Obviously 'Third Party' mostly reads 'ServerWorks' right now, but maybe other chipset makers will join.

In the above picture you can also see 'Plumas'. This looks as if it might be the 'Xeon'-version of 'Brookdale '. In this case 'Plumas' is most likely the non-RDRAM platform for 'Prestonia' and it might come with DDR-SDRAM support for small servers and workstations.

Finally I'd like to remind you of the 'i870' for IA32 story again. The 32 bit version of this 64/32 bit chipset will not work with Foster, but only with Prestonia. Basically you can expect the same story for 'Foster' as we've also reported for 'Willamette' . After about 9 months both of those processors will be replaced by 'Northwood' and 'Prestonia'. Thus the package and Slot/Socket used by Foster might also have only a very short life span.

Overall Summary

  • Pentium III will continue lagging behind AMD's Athlon as it will probably take until summer 2001 that there will be a Pentium III faster than 1 GHz. This 'final' version of the Pentium III will require a new chipset and Intel might include DDR-SDRAM support into that. It might not as well though. All in all the future of Pentium III doesn't exactly look rosy, but at least it doesn't require RDRAM to run this processor.
  • The Pentium 4 that will be released in a bit more than a month ('Willamette') will only have a very short life span and the only platform available for this processor requires RDRAM. This Pentium 4 as well as its Socket423 will be replaced by 'Northwood' and Socket 478 maybe even less than 9 months later. At this time Intel will also supply an alternative to the RDRAM-only chipset by the name of 'Brookdale', which might support DDR-SDRAM. The first Pentium 4 by the name of 'Willamette' will not be compatible with 'Northwood' so that this processor won't run on 'Brookdale'-platforms. Basically, you are doomed if you should be the owner of a 3-11 months old Pentium 4 system this time next year.
  • The workstation/server pedant of Pentium 4 by the name 'Foster' will be released early 2001. The multi-processor version will take a lot longer though until Q3/2001. By the end of 2001 'Foster' will be replaced by 'Prestonia', which puts it in the same situation as 'Willamette'. Chipset-wise you can either go with an Intel workstation chipset that supports RDRAM only, or you can choose SeverWorks or another 'ThirdParty' chipset maker. Intel won't supply anything helpful here.
  • The mobile section is the only real enjoyable part of this roadmap. Intel seems to push this area quite hard next year and we can expect a lot of advances.