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Intel rewrites Itanium roadmap

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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Intel Corp has dramatically rerouted its Itanium 2 roadmap, delaying the transition of the 64 bit architecture to 90 nanometer technology but pulling forward its plans for a dual core version of the product,

writes Joe Fay

.

The vendor had originally planned to follow this summer's launch of the second generation Itanium 2, which has been dubbed Madison and which is built on a 0.13 micron process, with a 90 nanometer version of Itanium 2, code-named Montecito, next year.

Instead, it will deliver an enhanced version of Madison next year. Montecito will now launch in 2005. However, instead of being a single core chip, as originally envisaged, it will instead feature two cores.

Jason Waxman, marketing manager for enterprise processors at Intel, told ComputerWire yesterday that the vendor was on track with its plans to expand the Itanium family. He said Madison will feature 6MB of level three cache and a clock speed of 1.5GHz. Deerfield, a density optimized version of Madison, will appear shortly after. Deerfield is expected to have a slower clock speed than Madison, and a lower cache complement.

Waxman said the enhanced Madison due in 2004 will also be built on 0.13 micron technology, but will feature 9MB of cache, with the clock speed cranked higher still. Waxman would not say how fast the chip would be, but said it was not likely to show as great a jump as between the original Itanium and Itanium 2.

Intel had earlier said it would launch a dual core Itanium somewhere around the middle of the decade. Waxman said yesterday that the company had made the decision to pull forward its rollout of dual core technology, wrapping it into the Montecito product and announcing a firm 2005 ship date.

He said the company had changed tack because it recognized that this would be one of the most significant ways to meet customer demands for increased performance. He said the dual core chip would use the same packaging and socket technology as Itanium 2.

"I'm not necessarily saying it will be drop-in compatible," he said. "But it will have the same basic socket and thermals."

A spokeswoman for Intel added that the delay in the shift to 90 nanometer technology did not reflect any problems getting Itanium onto the smaller process. Rather she said it resulted from the decision to bring forward the launch of the dual core product. The performance boost offered by the enhanced Madison due next year would be in the same ballpark as that expected from the original single core Montecito, she said.

Despite speeding up its dual core rollout, Intel will still be entering the market much later than its rivals. IBM already has a dual core Power4 on the market, and Sun expects to launch its dual core Ultrasparc-IV processor this year.

Waxman insisted Intel was not concerned it had already missed the boat. He said that the company was already offering industry-leading performance with the Itanium, and was boosting performance faster than its rivals. Shifting to dual core would offer a substantial jump, he said.

More significantly perhaps, Intel hopes to leverage its manufacturing muscle to offer a much cheaper dual core option, compared to IBM or Sun. Customers wanting dual core technology from IBM were facing paying "hundreds of thousands of dollars" Waxman claimed.

© ComputerWire

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