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Intel looks to fend off AMD with new 2006 chipset

Blackford confirmed

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Exclusive Come 2006, Intel plans to make some significant shifts in its Xeon processor line of products with the introduction of the Blackford chipset, The Register can exclusively confirm.

In May, we brought the first word on Blackford, and now Intel is finally ready to admit the chipset does in fact exist.

"You'll see some different platforms architectures around Blackford," said Richard Dracott, general manager of Intel's enterprise platforms group, in an interview. "It's our chipset for the dual-processor server market due out in 2006."

Dracott would not budge on further details, but our sources have revealed Blackford will ship with a 1066MHz front side bus.

The high-speed FSB will be just one of several adjustments Intel plans to make with its 2006ish Xeon products. The company is trying to adjust to a new threat from AMD's Opteron processor, which many analysts and customers believe is superior to Xeon with regard to memory performance and multiprocessor server designs.

Intel is currently somewhat gated by its FSB and north bridge and can only keep its processors fed with a limited amount of memory. The company, however, is now saying that it may well move to a new design to make up for these deficiencies.

"Just because we are going one route doesn't mean that we are married to that route," said Nimish Modi, VP in Intel's enterprise group. "We may come up with a different solution."

One addition Intel will make is via the use of fully buffered DIMM technology (FDB), which should improve memory performance. Intel also says that it's ahead of AMD with support for DDR2 memory because of its chipset designs.

One analyst, however, doubts that Intel will be able to make any major chipset shift until 2007, when Intel releases a common chipset for its Xeon and Itanium processors.

"Given Intel's current roadmap, the first opportunity they have to change their approach is with that common architecture," said Nathan Brookwood of InSight64. "Because until then, they have a series of processors and a series of north bridges and each new processor has to work with the old, and each new north bridge has to work with the old."

"Intel only has one memory controller and that has to supply all of the memory bandwidth for all the processors attached to it. AMD adds a new memory controller for each new processor, so a four-way server has four times as much memory bandwidth." ®

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