Intel brings virtualization to desktop chips

Intel Corp. is expected to unveil two new desktop processors on Monday that come with hardware support for virtualization technologies, but users won’t be able to take advantage of that technology for some time.

The new single-core Intel Pentium 4 672 and 662 processors are almost identical to the 670 and 660 Pentium 4 processors in Intel’s product lineup, except the new chips have transistors dedicated to improving the performance of virtualization software, said Chad Taggard, director of advanced technologies marketing with Intel.

Virtualization technology allows PC and server users to run multiple operating environments on a single processor, allowing one machine to be carved into several “virtual” computers.

For example, users could access corporate applications in one operating environment, while using a different environment for personal applications. IT managers could exercise tight control over the corporate application environment and prevent viruses or malware from moving from the personal environment to the rest of the company’s network.

This has been possible for a while with software from companies like VMware Inc., XenSource Inc., but hardware virtualization allows that software to run more efficiently. However, in order to take advantage of the extra performance boost from Intel’s virtualization technology, the software companies have to build support for that capability into their products, Taggard said. That process is under way, but the updated software products aren’t expected to become available until around the beginning of next year, he said.

Early next year, Intel will bring the hardware virtualization technology into its dual-core Pentium D processors, Taggard said. Around the same time Intel will also introduce virtualization into its Xeon server processors. Advanced Micro Devices Inc. is also planning to introduce virtualization technology for server and desktop processors next year.

Lenovo Group Ltd., Acer Inc., Founder Group, and Tsinghua Tongfang Computer System Business Group plan to announce support for the new chips on Monday. PC market heavyweights Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. are waiting until next year to introduce the technology into their systems, Taggard said.

Lenovo is only offering evaluation systems at this time, a company spokeswoman said. Shipments of ThinkCentre M52 desktops with the new Pentium 4 662 and 672 chips won’t begin until early next year, she said. The Pentium 4 672 runs at 3.8GHz, features 2M bytes of cache memory and costs US$605, just like the 670 processor. The 662 processor costs $401, the same price as the 660 processor.

Related links:

Intel: fast chip speed is no longer enough

Thinking through virtualization

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