New McKinley IO goodies leave Itanic stranded

The first born is dead?

Intel Developer Forum Intel Developer Forum, San Jose: Intel gave the clearest signal yet that McKinley, and not the first born Merced Itanic chip, will be the first serious business contender from the IA-64 processor family at its Developer Forum today.

CEO Craig Barrett showed McKinley live today for the first time, running on prototype 64bit Whistler, Linux IA-64 and HP-UX. There weren't many technical details we didn't already know: the Level3 cache has been integrated onto the die, there are 3x bandwidth improvements over Mercedium, claimed Intel executive VP Paul Otellini.

But more significantly, McKinley will be a "major new platform release" with chipset support for Direct Infiniband I/O, and Scalability Port, the latter being high speed I/O for the 870 McKinley chipset.

Clearly this makes McKinley a more attractive proposition than it was. But would Merced get these benefits too, even if this meant backporting them? When we put the question to Otellini he said he couldn't say, but added that more details would be made public on Thursday. We put the same question to Duane Zitner. Hewlett Packard's systems chief, he said he "not 100pc sure" but from what he knew, he rated this as a firm no-no. Itanic systems were "test environments" he added, as if we didn't already know.

So Direct Infiniband I/O - or native support for Infiniband interconnects in the chipset - will debit with McKinley and eventually make it into Fosters, but not the first round of Fosters in Q2 next year. Leaving Merced in the cold?

Otellini said there would be Itanic systems from 30 OEMs, 300 applications. But if prospective commercial buyers looking to run database and TP jobs on IA-64 know that there's a major platform improvement in a year's time, then we suspect hands will remain in pockets. These punters need the I/O, while scientific and technical applications generally don't: they value integer or floating point performance more highly.

That leaves The Maiden Voyage of Itanic Mercedium looking like a brief trip indeed. A quick tour around the harbour, a wave at the folks on shore in a few carefully picked technical compute locations, and then back to dock. Blink, and you might miss it.

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