Intel Expands Its Vision for Servers

By John G. Spooner  |  Posted 2005-08-24

Intel Expands Its Vision for Servers

SAN FRANCISCO—Intel Corp. wants to stuff an information technology assistant into its silicon.

The chip maker, at its fall Intel Developer Forum here, described developments in its line of chips for businesses that it says will, all at once, improve management, lower power consumption and improve performance of desktops and, particularly, servers.

The company on Wednesday announced partnerships with Cisco Systems Inc. and Skype Technologies S.A. in order to improve network management and boost the performance Skypes VOIP (voice over IP) service while running on Intel hardware.

The partnerships, although varied, show the general direction in which the chip makers efforts to develop new hardware for businesses are now headed.

Instead of focusing on adding clock speed or bumping up cache sizes in order to increase business machines performance, Intel has instead focused on delivering multicore processors—its future dual-core chips will also use less electricity, a major consideration for businesses that operate large server farms—and incorporating extra features, such as virtualization and hardware management technology.

Its also working to pave the way for the use of new applications such as VOIP to run on its desktops and server platforms.

The company will package all of the various initiatives, some of which are already available for desktops, into its server platforms during 2006, said Pat Gelsinger, general manager of Intels Digital Enterprise Group, during a keynote address Wednesday morning.

Gelsinger joked about capturing Stacy Smith, Intels CIO, in silicon. But at least some of the CIOs job can be tackled by the new Intel server hardware, which will offer features such as Intels Active Management Technology, Virtualization Technology and I/O (input/output) Acceleration Technology, he said.

Dubbed AMT, the active management technology can track hardware assets and help with diagnosing problems.

Thus far, Intel has mainly worked with companies such as Computer Associates Inc. to allow their software to work with AMT.

But on Wednesday, Cisco Systems Inc. announced plans to support the AMT with its hardware. Lenovo Group Ltd. also announced plans to support AMT in its desktops as well, this week.

Next Page: Virtualization software.

Virtualization Software

Jayshree Ullal, senior vice president of Ciscos Datacenter Switching and Security Technology Group, who joined Gelsinger on stage, said Cisco hardware would be able to automatically determine the status of a computer attempting to connect to a wired network and permit, deny or quarantine that system, based on its status.

A quarantined system could be made to update itself with software patches before being allowed on the network, she said. Products sporting those features will arrive in 2006, she added.

Intels Virtualization Technology, which will also hit its server platforms next year, will allow companies to divide up an Intel server to run different software and applications simultaneously.

Gelsinger demonstrated a system running VMWare Inc.s virtualization software and three different operating systems, including Microsofts Windows Server and Windows NT, along with Linux from Red Hat Software.

Gelsinger also demonstrated Microsoft Corp.s Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 running on an Intel platform.

The server software from Microsoft will incorporate support Intel Virtualization Technology, he said.

"VT becomes a core capability of the Intel platforms going forward," Gelsinger said. "With VT we make simpler and more robust virtual machines."

Intel will get the ball rolling on its enhanced server hardware by bringing out dual-core processors, which will begin shipping for servers later this year.

Click here to read more about companies following Intels lead on multicore processing.

Multicore is "just a better way to deliver performance," Gelsinger said.

Intel will revise its processor architecture next year, changing the underlying circuitry of its Pentium and Xeon chips to make way for multicore configurations as well as lowering their power consumption.

"The fastest rate of improvement on Moores Law [the idea that processor transistor count doubles every two years, therefore boosting performance] is going to happen over the next five years as we transition to multicore," Gelsinger said.

Intel has 10-plus quad or higher products under development now. But it will get started with dual-core Xeon DP and Xeon MP chips, based on Intels Paxville chip and designed for dual processor and four or more processor servers, respectively, in the fourth quarter, he said.

Next Page: Upcoming chips.

Upcoming Chips

The chips, which will both come out in the fourth quarter, will work with Intels current hardware, being paired including Lindenhurst chip set, for dual processor systems, and Truland chip set for multiprocessor systems, for example.

Paxville DP will arrive first, shipping early in the fourth quarter, according to Gelsinger, and will include two 2MB caches.

Paxville MP, which arrives next, will and also feature twin 2MB caches, along with an 800MHz bus, Gelsinger said.

Many of the extra Xeon platform features, including virtualization, wont come out until 2006, however, Gelsinger said.

Xeon DP will see the Lindenhurst chip set-Paxville DP combination give way to a new platform, based around a chip set named by Blackford and a chip called Dempsey, in the early part of 2006.

This Blackford-Dempsey platform, which will incorporate Virtualization Technology, Active Management and I/O Acceleration Technology, will be part of an overall Xeon DP platform called Bensly.

One of the highlights of Dempsey will be dual busses, which will bump up throughput of data passing into and out of it.

The Blackford chip set, meanwhile, will incorporate four channels of memory and use fully buffered memory modules.

Woodcrest, a new architecture, dual-core chip will come later in 2006, replacing Dempsey on the Blackford chip set. Woodcrest will have 4MB of cache, Gelsinger said.

Xeon MP systems, based on the Truland platform, will be updated with a new large cache chip called Tulsa in 2006, and later will receive Whitefield, one of Intels first quad-core chips.

Tulsa will offer 16MB of cache, which helps boost performance. Whitefield will have an equal amount of cache, Gelsinger said, revealing for the first time the cache size of the quad-core, new architecture chip.

"Whitefield will be one of our first quad-core offerings to the marketplace," Gelsinger said.

Intel will also fit in Sossaman, a low-power, dual-core chip for blade servers in 2006, he added.

Gelsinger also touched on Intels Itanium chip. Its shipments, he said, rose 170 percent in the first quarter of 2005 from the first quarter of 2004, he said.

The chip now has 4,500 applications or computing tools available for it, he added.

Intel will continue to move Itanium 2 forward by adding more processor cores to it.

A dual-core configuration, dubbed Montecito, will start shipping later this year.

Intel also disclosed that a quad-core Itanium with a chip called Tukwila, by about 2007, Gelsinger said.

"Big iron makes you feel good, right?" he asked after showing off a stand of several Itanium systems from companies such as Hewlett-Packard Co.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.

Rocket Fuel