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Intel debuts virtualisation on the desktop

One Pentium 4, multiple operating systems

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Intel has begun shipping the eagerly anticipated pair of Pentium CPUs equipped with its 'one processor, multiple operating systems' Virtualisation Technology (VT).

As expected, the two P4s are numbered 662 and 672, and with the exception of VT match the specifications of the current 660 and 670 chips. The pair are clocked at 3.6GHz and 3.8GHz, respectively, and incorporate 2MB of L2 cache. Both operate across an 800MHz frontside bus.

The two new chips are priced at $401 and $605, respectively, in 1,000-CPU batches - again the prices match those of the P4 660 and 670.

Intel has been promising VT for some time. The technique, borrowed from the mainframe world, allows the chip to maintain a number of 'partitions', each running its own operating system, drivers and applications. Each partition operates as a virtual machine, unaware of the others. System consistency and control is maintained by a Hypervisor program.

VT was originally due to ship in 2006, but in January this year Intel announced the technology would debut early, appearing in desktop processors late in 2005. The technology has the backing of virtualisation-software companies like VMware, Xen and Microsoft, but that's no great surprise since it will perform much of the heavy lifting currently performed by their apps, and which suffer performance lags as a result.

AMD is also working on its own alternative to VT, dubbed 'Pacifica'. It is expected to debut next year. ®

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