Intel next week is expected to give details of its upcoming eight-core Nehalem EX processors, which will be aimed at high-end systems with four or more sockets. The Nehalem EX won't be in systems until later this year or in early 2010, but Intel is getting enterprises ready. A few weeks later, AMD will officially unveil its six-core Istanbul processor, which has already begun shipping to OEMs this month. Initially expected in the second half of 2009, AMD officials said in April they were moving up the release date.
Enterprises over the next few weeks will get a better view of their future
multicore chip options as Intel and Advanced Micro Devices prepare to move
quickly on their road maps.
Intel officials on May 26 are expected to offer details of their eight-core
Nehalem EX processors for high-end servers with four or more sockets. The
chips, which will run 16 threads simultaneously, are expected to ship in
systems later this year or in early 2010.
The Nehalem EX is the bigger brother to the Nehalem
-now called the Xeon 5500 Series-for systems with two sockets, which
was released March 30, along with a host of systems running it from vendors
such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, IBM, Sun
Like the Nehalem EP, the EX will offer such features as an integrated memory
controller-similar to what AMD has been
offering on Opteron for six years-and a chip-to-chip interconnect, plus
enhanced virtualization capabilities and better energy efficiency.
The new high-end Xeons will become the top choice from Intel for high-end
servers. Currently the chip maker offers the six-core "Dunnington" chip, which
was released last fall.
For its part, AMD is preparing to
officially release its own six-core processor, code-named "Istanbul,"
in June. Initially the company planned for a rollout later in the year, but
in late April
that they had moved up the release date.
With its accelerated schedule, AMD began
releasing the chip to OEMs in May, with Istanbul-powered systems expected in
AMD's rollout comes as the company works
its way through a tough global economy that is battering many technology
vendors. AMD posted a first-quarter loss of
$416 million, and in early May announced a reorganization
that includes merging its CPU and graphics chips business, which President
and CEO Dirk Meyer said will be a key
differentiator for AMD down the road.
AMD recently got a win when the European
Intel $1.45 billion
for antitrust violations. AMD
officials applauded the decision, while Intel officials said they would appeal.
The fine just feeds into what has been a heated competition between the two
companies since AMD launched its first
Opteron chip in 2003.
John Spooner, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said enterprises
will welcome the new multicore processors from both companies as they look for
ways to increase the performance of the IT environments while driving down
costs. Having more cores is one way to do that.
"IT managers are very savvy about technology, and they will view increasing
core counts as a positive; really a way to get the most out of a machine,"
Spooner said in an IM interview. "Value for their dollar-especially these
days-is vital, so IT managers will choose the options that work best for them.
Whether that's six or eight cores really depends on the application."
He said AMD's introduction of the
six-core Istanbul chip could be a
boon for the company in the two-socket server space, though not so much in the
higher-end systems with four or more sockets, where Nehalem EX will play.
"Having a six-core option for the mainstream, two-socket market gives AMD
something of an advantage in the marketing department," Spooner said. "I think
that, on paper, more cores is better and that will likely get AMD
in the door in a lot of situations where IT managers will want to evaluate Istanbul
to see if it provides them with that extra value for the dollar. It remains to
be seen if six-core Istanbul will
beat out four-core Xeon 5500/Nehalem."
For those higher-end systems, it may be a tougher sale, Spooner said.
"There, swapping processors essentially costs nothing," he said. "It's a few
hundred or a few thousand dollars."