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Intel's Xeon chip kill is result of chaos in India

Server chief leaves India and Intel behind

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Exclusive While stunning in its own right, Intel's cancellation this week of the multicore "Whitefield" processor stands as a more significant miscue that simply excising a chip from a roadmap. Whitfield's disappearance is a blow to India's growing IT endeavors.

Originally discovered by The Register, Whitefield stood as a major breakthrough for Intel and its Indian engineers. The much-ballyhooed chip would combine up to four mobile processor cores and arrive in 2007 as the very first chip designed from the ground up in India. In the end, engineering delays and a financial audit scandal killed the processor, leaving Intel to develop the "Tigerton" replacement chip here and in Israel.

El Reg has discovered that Srinivas Raman, former general manager of Intel India's enterprise products group, left the company in early August and joined semiconductor design tools maker Cadence - the home of former Intel global server chip chief Mike Fister. Raman declined to return our phone calls, but insiders confirm that he was the lead of the Whitefield project. The executive became distressed about the project when Intel's audit resulted in close to 50 of his staff being let go from the company, one source said.

Of the 50 staffers, close to 20 of them were sent to India from Portland in 2001 to work on Whitefield. The cancellation of the project has since resulted in much of the work being sent back to Portland.

Whitefield had been meant to serve as Intel's most sophisticated response to the rising multicore and performance per watt movements. The company has fallen well behind rivals IBM and Sun Microsystems on such fronts in the high-end server market and behind AMD in the more mainstream x86 chip market. The Whitefield chip was designed to give these competitors a real run for their money as it made use of Intel's strong mobile chip technology to deliver a high-performing product with relatively low power consumption.

Instead of wowing customers, Intel has disappointed them and created a painful situation for its India staff.

Local paper The Times of India commented this week on the situation.

"India's ambitions of emerging (as) a global chip design and development hub has just suffered a big knock," the paper wrote. "Intel has killed its much-hyped Whitefield chip, a multicrore Xeon processor for servers with four or more processors that drew its name from Bangalore's IT hotspot, Whitefield, and which was being developed almost wholly in this city.

"Intel had invested heavily in the project, both in infrastructure and people, drawing in some of the brightest talents. Some 600 people are said to be employed in the core hardware part of the project."

Chip staffers in India currently fear losing their jobs and morale is very low as a result of the Whitefield cancellation. Many of the staffers had only been told that Whitefield would be delayed by six to nine months. They learned of the project's end in the press.

The difficulties here show how complex global operations can be with sophisticated products. India hoped to take on more and more of Intel's design work, but such plans look iffy now to say the least.

These disruptions hurt Intel during a very difficult period for the company. It had appeared that Intel managed to correct the chip delay issues and strategy mistakes that plagued it during 2004. Instead, the company this week delayed work on both its Itanium and Xeon lines, giving AMD a chance to take even more market share from the giant.

Intel declined to comment for this story.®

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