Intel Ships Tukwila Itanium Chip

After multiple delays, Intel has started revenue shipping of its much anticipated "Tukwila" Itanium processor, which Intel officials say doubles the performance of the current "Montecito" chip. The official launch is expected Feb. 8. The news comes as IBM prepares to release its Power7 chip later this year, and as both Intel and AMD get ready to launch other server processors.

Intel is finally shipping the much delayed "Tukwila," the latest generation of its high-end Itanium processor.

In a blog posting Feb. 2, Intel officials said the company had begun revenue shipments of the quad-core Tukwila, which they said more than doubles the performance of the current "Montecito" Itanium processor.

The chip also adds a host of features to enhance the reliability, scalability and virtualization capabilities, according to Intel.

Intel, AMD, IBM and others are rapidly boosting the number of cores in chips.

Intel has had to delay the release of Tukwila several times, most recently last summer, when officials said they were taking the extra time to improve the application scalability capabilities.

The official launch for Tukwila could come as early as Feb. 8, when Intel has scheduled a press conference that will include representatives from Hewlett-Packard's business-critical servers unit in its software business. HP is by far the largest consumer of Itanium chips, and uses them in both its high-end Integrity systems and NonStop servers.

The official launch will come during the ISSCC (International Solid-State Circuits Conference) in San Francisco. During the show, officials from IBM are scheduled to talk about their upcoming Power7 processor. In addition, Sun Microsystems executives are expected to discuss their SPARC processor portfolio.

Itanium is positioned to compete with both Power7 and SPARC. IBM over the past few months has made a concentrated push to entice users of both Itanium and SPARC systems over to its Power portfolio, claiming that the multiple delays in releasing Tukwila and the recent acquisition of Sun by Oracle should raise questions about the viability of both processor lines.

This year is promising to be a busy one in the server processing market. Along with Tukwila, Intel also is scheduled to release "Nehalem EX," an eight-core chip designed for servers with four or more sockets. Intel officials have said they are aiming Nehalem EX to compete in the high-end RISC server market.

While Intel is bringing greater commonality to both the Xeon and Itanium processors, and moving Xeon into higher-end markets-as illustrated by Nehalem EX-company officials have said that there is room for both platforms. Itanium offers more mainframe-like capabilities and are targeted at systems such as HP's Integrity and NonStops.

"Both products address different needs, and they will for a long time to come," Boyd Davis, general manager of Intel's data center group marketing, said in an interview in November.

Intel also is readying new "Westmere" Xeon chips for midrange and lower-end systems.

In addition, Advanced Micro Devices this year will launch the latest generation of its Opteron chips, including its "Magny-Cours" processor, a high-end chip that will offer up to 12 cores, and "Lisbon," which will have up to six cores and will be aimed at servers with one or two sockets.