Intel Launches Revved-Up Xeon MP

UPDATED: Officials said users will see a performance boost of up to 25 percent in systems using Intel's upgraded 'Gallatin' Xeon chip.

End users should see a 15 percent to 25 percent performance increase when using systems powered by Intel Corp.s upgraded Xeon MP processor, company officials said Tuesday.

At a press conference in New York, Richard Dracott, general manager of enterprise marketing and planning for Intels Enterprise Platform Group, said the new "Gallatin" chips—which include a 3GHz version with 4MB of Level 3 cache, and 2.7GHz and 2.2GHz versions with 2MB of cache each—will help businesses looking to consolidate back-end applications onto fewer systems.

Pricing, in 1,000-unit quantities, for the new chips is $3,692 for the 3GHz processor, $1,980 for the 2.7GHz chip and $1,177 for the 2.2GHz version.

Dracott said the new chips—used in systems with four or more processors and compatible with existing systems—are an example of Intel "breathing new life into a platform that has been around for a few years."

He also used the launch of the new chip as a way of highlighting the work Intel does around silicon, from chip sets to software tools to servers. All of them play a role in Intel architecture being used in the vast majority of the worldwide server market, he said. About 85 percent of the systems shipped use Intel architecture, accounting for almost 50 percent of server revenues, Dracott said.

Intels 64-bit Itanium chip will enable it to compete better in the high-end space now dominated by mainframes and RISC systems powered by Sun Microsystems Inc.s SPARC and IBMs Power processors, he said.

Several OEMs will be rolling out upgraded servers to take advantage of the new chips. For example, IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., will refresh its four-way xSeries systems, including the x255 tower server, the x365 and x445 rack-optimized systems and the HS40 BladeCenter blade server, a spokesman said. Hewlett-Packard Co., of Palo Alto, Calif., will refresh its four-way ProLiant DL560, DL580 and ML570 systems, and the eight-way DL740 and DL760 servers.

Dell Inc., of Round Rock, Texas, will ship the new Xeon MPs in its four-way PowerEdge 6650 and 6600 servers. Intel will use the new chips in its own four-way blade system—developed in conjunction with IBM—called the Server Compute Blade SBX44.

Thomson Financials, a financial services company, is working to bring Intel technology into its business, said Jeremy Lehman, senior vice president for technology for the New York company.

Recent acquisitions over the past few years have forced Thomson to find ways of scaling up its application infrastructure to meet the demands of a rapidly growing customer base. For example, the company migrated its compute-intensive Thomson ONE Analytics application from Suns SPARC and IBMs POWER architectures to systems from Unisys Corp. running both Intels 32-bit Xeon and 64-bit Itanium chips. In a months time, the company was able to scale the application from 500 to 55,000 users, Lehman said.

"We felt that Intel is fully matured to tackle the [issues] we had," he said. "This is a very demanding application, as users are expecting nearly instant response times."

Thomson is using a cluster of two Unisys ES7000s, each running 16 Xeon MP chips, and another ES7000 powered by eight Itanium 2 processors for a memory-intensive application used for querying a database containing five years of investment management research.

The result has been a 400 percent increase in application speed, 100 percent uptime and a 100-fold increase in the number of users. The company plans to deploy the new 3GHz Xeons within the next three months.

Mark Feverston, vice president for systems and technology at Unisys Corp., said in an interview after the press conference that the Blue Bell, Pa., company will begin offering systems with the new Xeon MP chips in early April. He said Intels roadmap for both Xeon and Itanium give OEMs like Unisys the ability to offer their customers various options.

In Thomsons case, the Xeon systems work well for the transaction-intensive, high-speed Thomson ONE Analytics application, while the Itanium-based server enables Thomson to run its large back-end archiving database with a bulky search engine.

Standardizing on the Wintel platform also will make it easier to integrate the disparate data centers Thomson has acquired via its purchases of other companies.

"Thomson has all kinds of data centers filled with all sorts of stuff," said Feverston, adding that Unisys has been working with Thomson for almost two years. Thomsons Lehman "wants to standardize to be agile."

During the press conference, Lehman said he wanted to standardize on the Intel architecture to reduce the companys dependency on proprietary operating systems and platforms.

Editors Note: This story was updated to include information and comments following a press conference.

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