Intel Says Itanium Road Map on Schedule

Intel is preparing to stick with its Itanium processor for some time to come.

The Santa Clara, Calif., company detailed its Itanium road map June 14, and company executives said Intel will deliver the refresh of its current “Montecito” processor by the second half of 2007.

By late 2008, Intel will deliver its next-generation Itanium, code-named Tukwila, a quad-core processor that will support eight software threads simultaneously.

After those two processors hit the market, Intel will launch another Itanium chip, code-named Poulson, which will be built with the company’s 32-nanometer manufacturing process. That processor will be followed by another chip called “Kittson.”

With Poulson and Kittson, Intel executives offered few details on when these two chips would be delivered and what the architecture will look like. Company officials did note that Poulson would offer “significantly” more cores and threads than the previous generation of Itanium processors.

Diane Bryant, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Server Platforms Group, said Poulson and Kittson would skip the company’s 45-nanometer shrink cycle, which will start later in 2007 with the “Penryn” family of processors, and move straight to 32-nanometer. Intel plans to introduce its first 32-nanometer processors, called “Westmere,” by 2009, which means Poulson processors could hit the street by late 2009 or 2010.

Click here to read more about Intel’s processor road map and overall company strategy.

In the high-end server space, Intel’s Itanium competes with IBM’s POWER processors and Sun Microsystems’ UltraSPARC chips. On May 21, IBM introduced its next-generation POWER6 processor, which offers a clock speed of 4.7GHz. Sun’s next UltraSPARC processor, called “Rock,” due to arrive in 2008, will boast 16 cores and use the company’s chip multithreading technology.

While Intel has delayed the release of its various Itanium products before, company executives stressed that production is on schedule and will start later in 2007 with the release of its “Montvale” processor—the refresh of the current Itanium 2 chip. Montvale, the best-performing of the current crop of Montecito processors, offers a 24MB Level 3 cache, a clock speed of 1.60GHz, a 533MHz FSB (front side bus) and a 104-watt thermal envelope.

However, Bryant spent most of the June 14 presentation giving details on the quad-core Tukwila Itanium chip.

In addition to being a multicore processor, Tukwila will feature an integrated memory controller and a high-speed interface—a replacement for the FSB—that looks to double the performance of the current Itanium offering while keeping within the same thermal envelope. Intel engineers are also working on a new chip set that will work with the company’s future Xeon offerings.

Tukwila will offer enhanced virtualization capabilities and a new feature called Double Device Data Collection, an RAS (reliability, availability and security) capability that will allow the chip’s DIMM (dual in-line memory module) to function in the event of sequential DRAM (dynamic RAM) errors, according to Intel.

Read more here about Hitachi’s Itanium-based blade servers.

Right now, Hewlett-Packard is the only major OEM to offer Itanium in its server line, although Intel executives highlighted an IDC study saying Itanium-based systems brought in $3.4 billion in revenue in 2006. Some other vendors, notably Hitachi, NEC and Fujitsu, have also started offering Itanium-based systems.

In addition to these and other systems, Bryant said approximately 12,000 application have been developed on the Itanium platform.

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