Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. are jockeying for position as they prepare to roll out dual-core versions of their processors over the course of the year.
At its developer forum next week in San Francisco, Intel will make dual-core processing a key theme of the show. Included will be demonstrations of dual-core chips built using the 65-nanometer manufacturing process.
For its part, AMD officials this week said the Sunnyvale, Calif., company will begin rolling out dual-core Athlon 64 processors for desktop PCs in the second half of 2005, after Intel launches dual-core Pentium 4 chips for personal computers. Those processors, code-named "Smithfield," will start shipping later in the first half of the year, according to Frank Spindler, vice president of Intels technology programs.
Dual-core chips have been around for several years in the Unix space, in IBMs Power processors and Sun Microsystems Inc.s SPARC chips. However, they will first appear in the x86 world this year. Such chips offer two cores on a single die.
Users say they are looking forward to the performance and cost advantages dual core promises.
"Youve got a lot of two-way boxes—particularly if you have blades—at work," said Jevin Jensen, director of technical services at flooring company Mohawk Industries Inc., in Calhoun, Ga. "If theyre going to act like a four-way, thats a huge savings for us."
Key to the adoption of dual-core processors was Microsoft Corp.s announcement last year that it would license its software on a per-processor—rather than per-core—basis, he said. Mohawk not only runs IBMs Intel-based xSeries systems, but also some iSeries servers, which run on the Power chip. "Weve seen the benefits of dual-core," Jensen said. "Its exciting that theyre talking about bringing those kinds of benefits down to the open systems and to the midrange."
Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., has begun sampling dual-core Pentiums with computer makers, Spindler said. "Montecito," the first of the 64-bit Itanium systems to offer dual cores, will come out toward the end of the year, followed by dual-core Xeon processors in early 2006.
AMD demonstrated dual-core Athlon 64 processors this week, and already has begun shipping samples to OEMs. The chips will use the same 939-pin infrastructure and CoolnQuiet cooling technology, which will enable most current Athlon 64 users to replace the chips with the dual-core models with little more than a BIOS upgrade, officials said.
The dual-core chip will join the single-core Athlon 64, Athlon FX and low-end Sempron processors in AMDs lineup, officials said. The company will continue to use the Athlon FX as its highest-end chip, citing the ability of users to ramp up the processors speed.
Systems makers already are preparing for the arrival of the dual-core chips. IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., this week unveiled the latest generation of its Enterprise X-Architecture for its xSeries systems. The X3 architecture, which will bring such features as greater virtualization and memory control to the servers, also will offer the "Hurricane" chip set. It will first appear within the next three months in the x366 system, which also will be ready to support dual-core Xeons when they arrive.
Sun, of Santa Clara, Calif., already is working on new systems, code-named "Galaxy," which will feature single- and dual-core Opterons. Sun officials earlier this month announced that the company was no longer going to sell Intel-based systems, opting instead to exclusively sell Opteron servers in the x86 market.