Big Iron Montecito appears - finally

Intel plays catch up with dual core Itanium

Chip giant Intel is finally launching its Itanium2 enterprise processor, code-named Montecito manufactured with 90nm process.

Intel's RISC-based Itanium processor has been slow to catch on, and the dual core version is over a year late to market. IDC server and workstation hardware analyst Chris Ward says other RISC vendors like Sun, HP and IBM have had multi-core processors already, and that Intel is playing catch-up with the Itanium2 9000 series chips.

Ward says that while he isn't aware of any New Zealand customers for the Itanium2, there are a couple in Australia. It is a growing business though, Ward says, with the Itanium2 reaching into the large-computer enterprise space traditionally dominated by RISC vendors.

First mooted in 2003, Itanium2 9000 is likely to find a home overseas in massively parallel systems with thousands of processors. Fujitsu intends to launch a range of Itanium2 9000 machines, starting with eight processors and going up to 32. Other vendors planning on launching Itanium2 systems include Bull, NEC, SGI, Hitachi, and Unisys.

In such systems, the lowered thermal envelopes between 76 and 100 Watts (down from 130W) will help, Ward says, but it's less important in lower-end machines with fewer processors.

Six variants of the Montecito processor will be available at launch. Speeds range from 1.42 to 1.6GHz, and all processors have large Level 3 caches: 6, 8, 12, 18 and 24MB shared between the cores are the options.

A staggering 1.72 billion transistors are housed inside the processor; some of the these are used to support Intel's VT virtualisation technology as well as HyperThreading; the latter feature was introduced in Intel's desktop Pentium 4 processors and allows for improved performance with programs that make user of multiple threads or sequences of instructions. In effect, this means each Montecito bar the dual-core 9030 and 9010 will have four logical cores each for improved processing prowess.

The large caches are designed with Intel's Cache Safe Technology (CST) for data coherency. Although some of the previous Itanium processors had 667MHz memory bus, this nowruns at 533MHz only. A slower 400MHz bus model is also included in the line-up.

Intel has spent some US$10 billion dollar to revive the flagging fortunes of the Itanium range, and claims the new processors are over 60% faster than the older generation they replace.

Intel's New Itanium2 9000 Series at a glance

Processor Core Bus

Number Frequency Frequency L3 Cache TDP US$ Price

9050 1.6 GHz 533 MHz 24MB 104W $3,692

9040 1.6 GHz 533 MHz 18MB 104W $1,980

9030 1.6 GHz 533 MHz 8MB 104W $1,552

9020 1.42 GHz 533 MHz 12MB 104W $910

9015 1.42 GHz 400 MHz 12MB 104W $749

9010 1.6 GHz 533 MHz 6MB 75W $696

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Tags intelmontecitoitanium2

More about CacheFujitsuHitachi AustraliaHPIBM AustraliaIDC AustraliaIntelNECSGI AustraliaTechnologyUnisys Australia

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