Though it has been shipping Tulsa processors for revenue since earlier in the quarter, the Santa Clara, Calif., company is expected to officially roll out Tulsa on Aug. 29, according to sources. Intel would not confirm or deny the date.
The high-end processor, which is used in servers with four or more chips, is the latest volley in Intels ongoing effort to slow down the momentum of rival Advanced Micro Devices, which introduced its latest generation of Opteron processors on Aug. 15.
Tulsa, built with Intels 65-nanometer manufacturing process and offering up to 16MB of Level 3 cache and almost as many transistors as the companys massive "Montecito" Itanium 2 chip, will play in a sector of the server business in which AMDs Opteron has particularly excelled.
"AMD has shown over the last couple of years that Intel is especially vulnerable in the four-way server space," said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with Insight64, in Saratoga, Calif. "This is Intels attempt to try and narrow that gap."
Intel, whose officials have dubbed this the "summer of servers," have aggressively rolled out a host of new chips over the past few months, including two dual-core Xeon DP chips and its first dual-core Itanium processor, the 9000 series.
The Xeon DP line crossed over to the new Core architecture with the 5100 "Woodcrest" line. The new architecture is designed to consume less power and generate less heat than its NetBurst counterparts, issues that helped AMD, of Sunnyvale, Calif., gain traction in the server space with the more energy-efficient Opteron chips.
AMD officials say they expect that trend to continue. Marty Seyer, vice president of the companys commercial business, told reporters during the launch Aug. 22 of AMDs research and development center in Shanghai that he expects AMD to hold 40 percent of the global server market by 2009. According to figures from Mercury Research, AMD saw its share of the x86 server processor shipments climb to 25.9 percent in the second quarter of 2006.
AMD also got more good news last week when Dell announced that it not only will offer a four-way Opteron system, but also two-processor AMD-based PowerEdge servers. And earlier in August, IBM said it is expanding its lineup of Opteron systems.
Tulsas massive L3 cache is an answer to Opterons on-board memory controller, and Insight64s Brookwood said he expects Intel to price the chip aggressively to compete with Opteron. However, such pricing is more beneficial to AMD, which doesnt have to spend the money to build a large cache on its chips.
"At $2,000 each, AMD is making a ton of money on its chips," he said. "At $2,000, Intel is probably making half a ton, or a quarter ton."
While the x86 server market is dominated by one- and two-way servers, Brookwood said he expects demand for larger systems to increase as IT departments deal with the multiple issues of shrinking budgets and data center real estate, as well as increasing costs to power and cool their facilities. Such technologies as multiple cores and virtualization will make the larger systems more attractive.
The four-way server space is "a niche market, but its an important niche," Brookwood said.
While servers with four or more processors account for fewer than 10 percent of the x86 shipments, they also are about 20 percent of the revenues, Brookwood said.
Tulsa will offer users of the current "Paxville" chip a straightforward upgrade, he said. However, "If youve already looked at AMD, this isnt going to change your mind," Brookwood said, adding, "The real solution for Intel comes about this time next year with Tigerton," a multicore chip that will be based on the Core architecture.
Still, OEMs are expected to announce new and upgraded systems based on Tulsa when it officially rolls out the week of Aug. 28. At the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo the week of Aug. 14, Intel and Dell demonstrated servers using the processor.