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Itanium powers world's fastest Solaris box!

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IDF No IDF would be complete without a healthy dose of Sun Microsystems bashing.

Intel has come a long way since the days when St. Fister had to compare Itanic boxes against 400MHz UltraSPARC IIi systems. Yes, Intel can roll out real benchmarks now that show its paper dominance over Sun.

Server chief Pat Gelsinger today took the lead with the SPARC attack, showing off an Itanium-based Hitachi system running Solaris of all things. Hitachi forked the OS onto its box with help from Transitive – a small but successful firm that makes a wide variety of translation software. The company can get Solaris/SPARC apps humming away on Itanium kit without source code or binary changes.

The end result?

"Ladies and gentlemen, the highest performing SPARC machine in the industry is the Itanium platform you are seeing today," Gelsinger said, as he marveled in front of the Hitachi box during an IDF speech. "Somehow, I think Scott McNealy might not enjoy that as much as I did."

And Gelsinger's right. With Hitachi selling only about 100 Itanium servers per quarter, the market for Sun's Solaris OS is pretty small.

It wasn't all Sun trashing hoopla at IDF today though, as Intel managed to place some attention on actual product.

Intel, for example, has started shipping a new version of Xeon for one-socket servers and workstations. The Xeon 3000 chip (Conroe) is aimed at the budget market.

If you want a box based on the new chip, Supermicro will be more than happy to ship you one.

FB FUDD

Intel also downplayed recent speculation that it would abandon FB-DIMMs on its low-end and mid-range boxes. And by downplayed, we mean aggressively denied.

"If you don't have fully buffered DIMMs on your server platforms, you are uncompetitive," Kirk Skaugen, an Intel VP, told us.

Well, the low-end Xeon 3000 boxes don't have FB-DIMMs, but they don't really count. Intel is sticking with the memory technology for two-socket boxes and above at least through 2009.

Speaking of two-way and above boxes, IBM has announced that it will spend millions more developing a fourth-generation chipset for four-core Intel systems. IBM's server queen Susan Whitney celebrated this commitment to Intel by telling Pat Gelsinger that he had a "very impressive wafer array". In front of everyone!!

Meanwhile, IBM is also investing in slotting its Power7 chips into Opteron motherboards, according to our sources. So, there's plenty of IBM cash to go around.

CSI IDF

We tried out best to muscle some CSI details out of Intel's delightful server VP Diane Bryant.

She, like the rest of the Intel brass, refused to give a date for CSI's Xeon arrival, preferring to confirm CSI-zipped Itaniums in 2008 instead.

Bryant, however, did disclose that Intel will be moving to a myriad accelerator world over the next couple of years. For one, it's going to have FPGA makers building product that taps the front side bus of its server chips. Then, it's prepping a follow-on to PCI Express 2.0 that will allow for accelerator chips and boards. There's plenty more on all that here.

But that's not all.

"There are probably a small number of applications that would actually benefit from even tighter links to the processor," Bryant told us. "We will continue to handle that on a one off basis."

We're talking FPGA in the socket type stuff.

Bryant closed by advising us to "keep the faith" in Itanium. It's going to win out in the end, she said.

Ah, but, Diane. If there's anything we have faith in, it's Itanic. ®

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