Intel Corp. is planning a last hurrah for its single-core Itanium server chips.
The processor giant is expected to announce on Monday a pair of Itanium 2 processors fitted with a slight increase in clock speed and a faster front side bus.
The bus, which is the equivalent of a pipeline for data moving into and out of the chip, is they key improvement for the two chips, sources familiar with Intels plans said.
The speedier, 667MHz pipeline will bump up the performance of the current-generation of Itanium 2 chips, embodied in Mondays expected launch. The same bus hardware will also be used in Intels forthcoming dual-core Itanium 2 chip, dubbed Montecito, as well, the sources said.
Thus, even though Intel intends to begin moving the Itanium line to dual core with Montecito later this year, server markers could potentially offer both the single-core and dual-core Itanium chips in the same server model lines. The ability to offer both for a time will likely allow server makers to offer different price points as well as save on costs by designing their single-core and dual-core Itanium 2 machines with similar internals.
Intels Monday announcement is expected to take the wraps off two 1.66GHz Itanium 2 chips, one each with 6MB of cache and 9MB of cache, in addition to the 667MHz bus upgrade. The relatively large caches, which store frequently needed data close to the processor core, are used to help boost performance.
Intel last updated the Itanium 2 line last fall, when it rolled out six new chips running at speeds up to 1.6GHz.
Although Itanium 2 shipments are fairly small compared to the numbers of x86-based Xeon chips Intel ships, the chip maker maintains that Itanium 2 is making progress at the upper end of the server market.
There, Intel says many large companies are replacing RISC processor servers, machines based on chips such as Hewlett-Packard Co.s PA-RISC or Alpha processor, with its Itanium 2 servers.
To date, HP has been the Itanium lines biggest champion. But numerous computer makers, including Hitachi Corp., are expected to offer the latest Itanium 2 chips in their systems. Most, if not all, are also expected to offer Montecito systems as well.
Itanium 2 servers arent without competitors, however. As Intel sees it, its main rival is the IBM Power processor.
IBM, for its part, is also readying upgrades for its Power5 server chip, which already offers dual cores. The Power5+, which is due out soon, will receive a clock speed increase and other improvements, IBM has said.
Sun Microsystems Inc. has also been working on updates for its dual-core UltraSPARC processor line.
An Intel spokesperson declined to comment for this story.