Xeon on target despite 'errata'

Problems with Intel's new enterprise-level Xeon chips won't delay launch dates for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in New Zealand, says country manager Scott Gilmour. The 'DBSY errata', as Intel calls the bug, only affects the 450NX chipset intended for servers with four processors or more. The 440GX, aimed at systems with one or two processors, is unaffected.

Problems with Intel's new enterprise-level Xeon chips won't delay launch dates for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in New Zealand, says country manager Scott Gilmour.

The "DBSY errata", as Intel calls the bug, only affects the 450NX chipset intended for servers with four processors or more. The 440GX, aimed at systems with one or two processors, is unaffected.

"It should delay shipment by no more than 30 days," says Gilmour, who points out that the erratum is not like the bug that caused so much trouble when the first Pentium chips were launched.

"This isn't like the Pentium bug — that was a hardware fault that affected results. Intel is already on top of this erratum and there is a downloadable fix available."

The erratum, discovered just over a month ago, causes the server to reboot unexpectedly. Intel says this shouldn't impact on data integrity.

The Xeon chipsets are part of Intel's foray into the high-end server market that traditionally runs proprietary RISC-type processors. The Xeon chipsets offer 400MHz processors with a 100MHz system bus, up to 8Gb of RAM and a level 2 cache of 2Mb. A 4Mb L2 cache will be available shortly and a 450MHz iteration is also expected.

Gilmour hopes the Xeon will enable Intel to re-write the industry-standard model for the enterprise-level server.

"Currently, it's a vertical market. Typically a purchaser will deal with one company for everything — channel, applications, operating system and hardware. With the Xeon we're changing it to a PC-industry dynamic." Gilmour hopes that users will be able to buy different machines, different operating systems and applications as they wish, rather than having to replace an entire architecture.

PC Direct is New Zealand's latest entrant into the server market, and technical manager Aaron Scott is excited by the potential offered by the Xeon.

"We've got a main-board and Xeon chip test rig that we can have a look at." He hopes to be one of the first off the mark with a Xeon-based server product before the end of the year.

Currently PC Direct has the 690duo 100 system running dual Pentium II 400MHz processors. Scott believes a Xeon-based system would complement rather than replace this.

"The 690duo 100 does have a specific purpose but if you're running applications s that require four processors or more then we will provide that with the Xeon."

Hewlett-Packard hopes to launch its range of Xeon-based workstations and servers in October.

"We'll be putting it into our midrange and enterprise-level servers and our workstations," says product manager Joanna Burgess.

Compaq plans to launch its Xeon products in the third quarter of 1998. First out of the gate will be the Compaq Professional Workstation SP700, which incorporates Compaq's highly parallel system architecture.

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