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Intel saddles HP with new Itanium

Why Montvale? Why?

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Intel has stunned the server world by shipping a fresh version of Itanium running at 3.0GHz.

Okay, that's a total lie. Rather, Intel has underwhelmed on the Itanic front once again by pumping out a host of lackluster "Montvale" or Itanium Processor 9100 series chips. The fastest version of the dual-core Montvale clocks in at 1.66GHz. As noted earlier, that speed is about half of what Intel once planned for this part and just a couple of notches faster than today's 1.60GHz Montecito chips.

Still, Montvale does have a few new bells and whistles. Along with a 667MHz front side bus, customers will find "Core Level Lock-Step" technology. The always illuminating Jon Stokes from Ars Technica describes the new RAS feature as an "on-die mechanism for comparing the output of one execution unit against another that's processing an identical copy of the same instruction in order to determine if one of the units made an error. This new feature complements Itanium's existing socket-level lockstep mechanism, which relied on an OEM-provided arbitration mechanism for comparing the output from two processors running the same code."

(Incidentally, anyone wanting to refine their knowledge of processors should read Jon's outstanding book.)

Intel has chucked in demand based switching as well to improve the power consumption of servers by dialing down the chip when it's not in use.

The top-of-the-line 9150 boasts 24MB of L3 cache, a 1.66GHz clock, a 667MHz FSB and chews through 104W. It costs 3,692 in volume. You'll find the remaining models here.

We continue to appreciate Intel's rhetoric resolve around Itanic.

"Unlike products from the remaining RISC vendors, the 9100 series continues to offer end-user freedom through a broad choice of software with more than 12,000 applications in production, and flexibility to support multiple operating systems, including Linux, Windows, HP-UX, HP NonStop, HP OpenVMS, z/OS and Solaris/SPARC," Intel said in a statement.

Of course, the freedom is rather more limited than that when you consider that HP owns close to 90 per cent of the Itanium market. And it's poor, old HP that has to suffer from the lackluster chip more than Intel.

By the end of next year, Intel is threatening to release a much more impressive version of Itanium. It will ship the four-core Tukwila part with an integrated memory controller and revamped interconnect. This puppy should fly and give the likes of IBM and Sun some grief.

Chip aficionados may want to check out our interview with computing legend Dave Patterson where he discusses Itanium's prospects. ®

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