Intel pushes ahead with new 64-bit Itanium microprocessors
Intel, (an SVW sponsor) today introduced its latest Itanium microprocessors as it continues to fight for market share against IBM's Power and Sun Microsystems Sparc 64-bit microprocessors.
Previously codenamed "Montecito," the new processors are designed for the most sophisticated high-end computing platforms in the world. They double the performance and lower energy requirements, improving performance per watt by 2.5 times compared to existing, single-core versions.
The Itanium family is used in high-end computing platforms that do a lot of number crunching, such as modelling weather systems, product design, and drug discovery. The chips have impressive performance for such applications and Intel says the new versions continue to lead in industry benchmark tests.
The Itanium chip designs are very different from server or PC microprocessors because they have to deal with moving and processing large amounts of numeric data. This high-end computing market requires very large and complex chips. The latest Itanium chips are Intel's most complex with more than 1.7bn transistors.
Pat Gelsinger, senior VP, introduced the chips at a press event in San Francisco. He announced new customers and said that 70 of the world's 100 largest companies now use Itanium systems.
Intel has had to invest a lot of resources in creating the infrastructure of applications, developers, and tools needed to support the chip. These are different from the rest of Intel's microprocessors which are based on X86 technologies.
It is the increase in applications specially designed for Itanium systems that is key to boosting Itanium system sales. Intel says more Itanium applications were added in the first six months of 2006 than were available in 2003.
Itanium was developed with partner Hewlett-Packard, which provided Intel with designs and technologies developed for large IT systems. Itanium gradually replaced HP's PA RISC microprocessor based systems. HP continues to be Itanium's largest customer and it says it has strong orders for the systems based on the chi[p
Intel has come under criticism from Wall Street analysts and investors about its Itanium business because it has been slow to build markets. But Intel says it is committed to the chip and it has a roadmap that stretches beyond 2010 to assure potential customers that it won't pull the plug on the product family.
The Itanium group has also been spared from cuts in Intel's operations as the world's largest chipmaker seeks to cut costs by $1bn. This is part of a reorganization of Intel that focuses the company on its core microprocessor business.
The Itanium grew out of Intel's strategy to apply the economics of the PC industry to the corporate data center. By using standard components, Itanium systems should be less expensive than high-end systems from IBM and Sun.
But cost of hardware is less important than the cost of porting applications to Itanium, and the cost of operating the systems. With more Itanium applications now available and lower operating costs through features such as Intel's virtualization technology, Itanium systems should now be in their best position to attack competing Power and Sparc system markets.
Please see SVW: Intel + HP 's data center push - saving power and saving labor