Intel CEO Craig Barrett, in his keynote speech Tuesday at the Intel Developers Forum in San Francisco, announced that the company will begin offering the extensions first in the upcoming Nocona processor in the second quarter. The technology later will appear in the Xeon MP "Potomac" chip and single-processor "Prescott" chip for workstations next year.
The extensions will enable the Xeon processors to do what the Itanium chips could not—run 32-bit applications as well as 64-bit software. The move is seen as an answer to Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s Opteron processors, which are 64-bit x86 chips and had been gaining traction in the market. Itanium is a different architecture than the x86 processors, and though it offered 32-bit computing capabilities via emulation software, the performance of those applications was lacking.
Some industry observers say the 64-bit-enabled Xeons pose a threat to the future of Itanium, but Intel officials in Santa Clara, Calif., say they will complement each other.
HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., is standardizing its line of high-end systems on Itanium. However, officials attending IDF announced that they will offer servers and workstations powered by the new 64-bit-enabled Xeon chips later this year. At the same time, the company supports Intels Itanium roadmap, and is announcing at the show the booting of the HP NonStop operating system on Itanium 2 processors.