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The point of Itanium keeps floating with new chips

High-end again

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IDF The years of Itanium preaching have taken their toll on St. Fister, and it shows.

Intel's bedraggled server chief Mike Fister took the stage today at IDF to try and clean up the mess made yesterday by CEO Craig Barrett. As you are probably aware, Barrett unveiled Intel's 64-bit extensions for Xeon processors. This puts Intel in the unusual position of following rival AMD and of undermining one of its biggest investments - Itanium.

In the past, a clean cut St. Fister has been known to cure people of their Itanic wickedness. His soothing touch convinced customers that despite the processor's decade long development and slow sales, things were moving along just as planned. But now a scruffy, bearded St. Fister has set to work flushing any overblown Itanium enthusiasm out of Intel itself.

While once billed as a Xeon replacement, Intel appears more ready than ever to admit that Itanic belongs in a niche. Not since the product first launched in 2001 have the terms "strong floating point performance" and "high-end" so often been heard.

These were the terms Intel first used to attract high performance computing customers to Itanium. Intel would go on to use more general purpose computing language as time went on, showing Itanium's ability to handle a wide variety of corporate workloads. But now the high-end language has returned with Xeon and its extensions meant to pick up the slack elsewhere.

To his credit, St. Fister did try to inspire a bit of fervor around Itanium during the IDF keynote. The company confirmed the Fanwood processors due out this year. The Fanwood chips are the next rev of the DP (dual processor server) Itanium 2 and low voltage Itanium 2. The DP Fanwood will come out at 1.6GHz and the LV Fanwood will run at 1.2GHz.

Intel also talked up Fanwood's successor - the Millington processors. These chips will arrive with Montecito, which is Intel's first dual core Itanium processor due in 2005. The Millington chips will be dual core as well with one aimed at dual processor systems and the other aimed at low power consumption. Following Millington, Intel will then release Dimona chips. These fit in the Tukwila - aka Tanglewood - line of multicore chips.

As you can see, all is going well with the Itanium family. You know, except for the lack of sales and that Yamhill thing.

Speaking of Yamhill, Intel disclosed that its Nocona processor for two-way servers will come out at 3.6GHz. Nocona is the first Intel processor to be blessed with 64-bit extensions.

Fister had a few close friends help out with Itanium and Xeon (now enhanced) presentation. HP and Dell sent in their CTOs and IBM chipped in with a executive in charge of Intel servers. It was a touching showing given that both HP and IBM are building out their Opteron server arsenals.

It's easy to give Fister a hard time mostly because he has had a hard time of late. But you really had to see him to believe him. We knew the Yamhill thing would be touchy and uncomfortable. But is it as bad as it looks, Mike? ®

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