Intel unveils ‘Montecito’ dual-core Itanium chip

Intel Corp. launched its “Montecito” dual-core Itanium chip on Tuesday, in an effort to improve its third-place position in the high-end server market.

The Dual-Core Itanium 2 design is the first to bring hyperthreading, virtualization and multiple cores to the Itanium line. Those features are important to customers who use the chips for business analytics, large data warehouses and other high-performance computing tasks.

The chip also offers speed, doubling performance and cutting 20 percent of its power needs compared to the last generation Itanium chip, said David Myron, Itanium product line manager for Intel, of Santa Clara, California.

“You usually get a 50 to 70 percent improvement when you go to dual core, but this has double the performance,” he said. At the same time, the chip reduces power consumption per socket by 20 percent, dropping from 130 watts to 104 watts.

The launch is important for Intel, which announced layoffs on July 13 and sold off its XScale processor line in June, in attempts to recover from slumping profits.

Although Intel is launching the new Itanium chip months after its original due date in the fourth quarter of 2005, the promise of those statistics has helped create modest growth in market share. Despite those recent gains, Intel is still firmly behind competitors like Sun Microsystems Inc.’s Sparc and IBM Corp.’s Power processors.

Itanium revenue has risen from less than 10 percent of either competitor in the first quarter of 2003 to more than 40 percent in the first quarter of 2006, said Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president of the digital enterprise group at Intel.

That trend will continue, since those competitors use proprietary technology that binds users to limited IT choices, Gelsinger said. In contrast, those who choose Itanium 2 processors will be able to abandon their aging legacy systems and create new innovation through standards-based computing, he said.

Indeed, Electronic Data Systems Corp. (EDS) has been migrating its customers from legacy IBM systems to Itanium 2-based computers for six months, said Tom Egan, vice president for global service delivery at EDS. Those customers use the new systems for tasks with high transaction volumes, such as financial applications and credit-card processing, he said.

Intel is now producing the Itanium 2 9000 series, and expects server vendors to ship products within 30 to 90 days. Those products will include NovaScale servers from Bull, PrimeQuest 500 series from Fujitsu Computer Systems, and the Altix 4700 and Altix 450 from SGI.

Intel launched five versions of the dual-core Itanium 2, including a 1.6 GHz version with 24M bytes of memory for US$3,692, a 1.6 GHz version with 18M bytes memory for $1,980, a 1.6 GHz version with 8M bytes memory for $1,552, a 1.42GHz version with 12M bytes memory for $910 and a 1.4GHz version with 12M bytes memory for $749.

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