Intel Tweaking Itanium Design, Delays 'Tukwila' Chip Launch

Intel is reworking some of the engineering behind its upcoming Itanium processor, currently code-named Tukwila. The additions to Intel's first quad-core Itanium processors include support for DDR3 memory and making Tukwila socket-compatible with future versions of Intel's Itanium chips. Because of these tweaks, Intel is pushing Tukwila's release date back to the middle of 2009, the chip maker says.

Intel is tweaking the design of its upcoming quad-core Itanium processor, so the new high-end microprocessor code-named Tukwila will hit the market later than previously expected, an Intel spokesperson confirmed.

Originally, Intel had planned to roll out its latest Itanium processor in the early part of 2009. However, the changes to Tukwila's design mean that Intel will have to delay the release until the second half of the year.

Intel engineers are expected to discuss some additional details and updates to the company's Itanium road map and Tukwila at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference, which kicks off later in February in San Francisco. Intel engineers also plan to discuss updates to the Nehalem microarchitecture road map and other technology breakthroughs at the show.

One of the changes to Tukwila's design will be support for DDR3 (double date rate 3) memory. Intel said it believes users will move to DDR3 sooner rather than later and the chip maker wanted to update its Itanium road map to reflect that belief.

The revised Itanium platform will also contain a new piece of memory technology called "scalable buffer memory," which allows OEMs to increase the amount of memory the server systems can support.

Intel is already supporting DDR3 memory with its processors based on the "Nehalem" architecture, which came to market in late 2008.

"We think that DDR3 is the choice of memory for servers in the future," Patrick Ward, an Intel spokesperson, said during a Feb. 5 interview.

While Intel believes that DDR3 is the future, Advanced Micro Devices believes that customers will want to stick with the less expensive DDR2 for a while. AMD will not switch to DDR3 memory until 2010.

In addition, Intel has redesigned Tukwila so that the chip will be socket-compatible with two other Itanium chips that are currently on the road map. Those two Itanium processors, "Poulson" and "Kittson," are expected to hit the market in the next two to three years.

While Tukwila is built on Intel's 65-nanometer manufacturing process, the company plans to skip 45-nm chips within the Itanium family and move straight to 32-nm chips with Poulson.

Intel also plans to roll out mainstream 32-nm processors code-named Westmere in late 2009.

Intel has previously disclosed that Tukwila will offer four processing cores and have an initial clock speed of 2GHz. The chip also supports eight instructional threads and uses 30MB of on-die cache.

Finally, Tukwila will also include a new technology called QuickPath, a high-speed chip-to-chip interconnect technology that will allow this family of processors to connect to another component or another chip on the motherboard.