Intel will bring its next-generation Itanium chips to the high-end systems market on Nov. 1, sticking to the pace set by its ambitious microprocessor roadmap released earlier this year.
The Itanium 9100 series will include several new processors, including six different dual-core models as well as one single-core chip. The top-performing Itanium chip will have a clock speed of 1.66GHz and a FSB (front side bus) of 667MHz, a significant improvement when compared to the older generations 533MHz FSB that will help deliver better performance with applications that demand more bandwidth.
These new Itanium processors were developed under the code name Montvale and the first of these chips were originally scheduled to hit the market in 2006.
But Intel, headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., kept pushing back the date of the release. Earlier this year, company executives stressed that they have now have better timelines for Itanium and will continue delivering updates to the portfolio through 2010.
While not as popular as Intels line of x86 processors, Itanium has found a niche within high-end, high-performance computing. A number of vendors, notably Hewlett-Packard, build systems that support Itanium. Other vendors include Fujitsu, Hitachi and NEC. Within that market, Itanium competes against IBMs Power platform and Sun Microsystems SPARC processors.
Steve Kleynhans, an analyst with Gartner, said that while Itanium remains important to a certain segment of computing that needs high-end, single-threaded performance, the addition of new Itanium chips is not that important for the IT market as a whole. Part of the problem is that since Itanium is a new type of platform, there has been a lack of applications designed to take advantage of that architecture.
"There is a narrow piece of the market for Itanium and Intel is trying to strike a balance between the cost of keeping it running and the embarrassment of killing it," said Kleynhans. "So far, Intel has managed the costs and it never hurts to have a product for high-end research projects."
The Itanium processors offer several additional improvements compared to the previous generation, which had been known as Montecito. The first of these is a technology called Core Level Lock-Step, which allows the calculation results to be consistent between the cores and the sockets, and Demand Based Switching, which reduces power consumption when the systems utilization rates are low.
HP, Itaniums biggest backer, announced it will begin delivering new systems based on the processor soon.
"HP will refresh its entire lineup of HP Integrity and HP Integrity NonStop servers and server blades with new system and software innovations using the latest Itanium processor technology over the next few months," Michelle Weiss, vice president of marketing for HPs business critical systems division, wrote in a statement.
The pricing for the Itanium 9100 series ranges from $696 to $3,692 per 1,000 units shipped, according Intel.