Intel Corp. of Canada on Monday began shipping the third-generation of its 64-bit Itanium 2 processor, code-named Madison, and also launched the Xeon Processor MP platform, code-named Gallatin.

The new processors are designed for the high-end server market segment, according to Rexdale, Ont.-based Doug Cooper, country manager of Intel Corp. of Canada.

The new Xeon MP is a 32-bit device and delivers approximately 10 per cent greater performance over its predecessor and better transaction processing performance than comparable RISC- (reduced instruction set computer) based processors and CISC- (complicated instruction set computer) based processors.

Offering more bang for the buck, the Itanium 2 has a 25 to 30 per cent increase in performance over the Xeon MP chips offers a 30 to 50 per cent performance improvement over the first-generation Itanium Chips, the company said.

Industry support from such bigwigs as IBM Corp., Dell Computer Corp., SAP AG and Oracle Corp. will provide an added boost to this new release of Itanium, said Alan Freedman, research manager infrastructure hardware at IDC Canada in Toronto.”

“This iteration of Itanium is going to benefit from the improved technology and the large built-in cache to the processor,” he said, “but people are also more comfortable with the Itanium now. It’s not strictly about test and development anymore.”

Freedman said the first few versions of the chip didn’t have the benefit of having companies such as Oracle and SAP writing applications for it. “So now they do and so it’s a two pronged approach. They are getting more software and better hardware,” Freedman explained.

This industry support is essential to the success of the processors, he said. Last week, Dell released details on its Madison-based PowerEdge 3250 server, the company’s first Itanium server since the launch of the inaugural Itanium chip.

IBM Corp. also unveiled on Monday two new servers based on Intel’s Itanium 2 processor. The 4U (4-inch) eServer x450 will be released on July 18 with up to four 1.5GHz Itanium 2 processors each with 6 MB of L3 cache.

“Both Dell and IBM were proponents of the Itanium platform when it was in development,” Freedman said, explaining that both companies removed the platforms from the market after the first launch. Shortly afterward, IBM returned to the market, while Dell opted to stay out of the game until now.

“They were waiting for the platform to become more mature and for applications to be developed,” Freedman said. “So, the fact that Dell is now on board with an Itanium server speaks well to the marketplace.”

Another big selling point for Intel is the competition the new processors are putting up against the RISC platform. Intel’s Cooper said RISC’s days are numbered as the Itanium 2 brings better price performance – 48 per cent better – than the legacy architecture.

The Itanium 2 processor comes in three flavours. The 6MB of Layer 3 (L3) cache at 1.50GHz model goes for US$4,226, while the Itanium 2 processor with 4MB of L3 cache at 1.40GHz is priced at US$2,274. The Itanium 2 processor with 3MB of L3 cache at 1.30GHz will run about US$1,338.

Also available in different configurations, the Intel Xeon processor MP at 2.80GHz with 2MB of L3 cache starts at US$3,692. The Xeon MP at 2.50GHz with 1MB of L3 cache and the Intel Xeon processor MP at 2.0GHz with 1MB of L3 cache are priced at US$1,980 and US$1,177 respectivelty. Prices are based on 1,000 unit quantities.

In other Intel news, the company announced plans to introduce the Low Voltage Itanium 2 processor (code-named Deerfield) later this year, targeted at dual-processor, lower-power consumption systems.

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