Intel aims to seed thousands of servers based on the two platforms into businesses and software developers as part of an extended testing period. The program, which is expected to get under way within two to three months, will allow businesses to test drive the dual-core processor Xeon platforms during the second half of 2005."We do expect to start some pretty aggressive seeding campaigns and are going to get those [Paxville and Dempsey servers] into the hands of users a lot sooner than I think many expected," Brace said. "We have a broad seeding program that will work with some of our top end customers and ISVs." Server maker Dell Inc. says its looking forward to offering dual-core processors and virtualization-capable servers. The two additions, it said recently, boost the capabilities of x86 processor servers for businesses, making them better for server consolidation duties or as replacements for more expensive Unix machines. Still, server makers dont typically transition to new hardware technology as quickly as desktop PCs or notebooks because their server models are both more critical to business operations, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research in Cave Creek Ariz. As technology transitions go, "Its a safe assessment that dual-core will be deployed very broadly and very swiftly in the server market," he said. However, "Its just going to take time for the OEMs to go through their normal product transitions." Like Intels Pentium D, the new Xeon chips might not necessarily be faster than their predecessors. However, theyre still likely to provide a performance boost from the addition of an extra processor core. "Performance increases will vary," McCarron said. "The benefit is basically zero to 80 [percent] depending on what youre doing. But its reasonable to assume there will be a performance benefit thats well into the double-digits on average." Virtualization technology offers a potential increase in usability as well. The technology, which divides a machine up into partitions that can each run a different operating system and set of applications, is available through software now. However, starting with Montecito, Intels first dual-core Itanium 2 chip and the fourth new platform, most Intel server chips will come with built-in virtualization capabilities. Montecito, which promises a whopping 24MB of Level 3 cache, will hit the market late this year. The technology, Brace indicated, is a key element of Intels forthcoming server platforms, including the two new Xeon chips. "Youre going to see us make an aggressive, broad push around virtualization," Brace said. "Virtualization is a significant capability. Its about security, reliability and setting up new modes of operating." Intel isnt the only chip maker building dual-cores x86 processors however. Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Intels arch rival, is already shipping dual-core Opteron chips. Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc. offer servers with the Opteron chips, now. HP and IBM are also likely to offer the dual-core Xeons as well. AMD will update Opteron with built-in virtualization, a technology it calls Pacifica, next year. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.
Servers based on them wont officially go on sale until 2006. But by that time, Intel figures businesses will be ready to deploy them and software developers will have had time to test and tune their wares as well.