Dual Approaches

Intel, AMD adopt different strategies for dual-core processors.

Rival chip makers Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. are finishing their respective dual-core processors, but the two vendors are taking markedly different approaches to rolling out their long-awaited technologies.

Intel is offering dual-core capabilities first in its Pentium line of client chips because, company officials believe, its easier to validate new technology on the PC platform. AMD, mean-while, this week will roll out dual-core models in its Opteron

chip family for servers and workstations, citing the more immediate impact in that space. "There are a lot of multithreaded applications that exist today that can immediately take advantage of dual-core [processors] without having to be recompiled," said Margaret Lewis, commercial software strategist at AMD, in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Dual-core technology puts two processing cores on a single die, essentially turning a two-way system into a four-way one. This approach is common in the RISC space, and Intel and AMD are now bringing it into the x86 market.

AMD will unveil its dual-core Opterons this week at an event in New York celebrating the two-year anniversary of the 64-bit chip. In addition, the company will preview its dual-core Athlon 64 chips for desktops and notebooks, CEO Hector Ruiz said last week. Those chips are due later in the year. Partners such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems Inc. are expected to introduce systems supporting the dual-core Opterons.

Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., last week announced it is shipping its dual-core Pentium Extreme Edition 840 chip and 955X Express chip set for high-end desktops and entry-level workstations. Intel also said it is on course to release dual-core Pentium 4 desktop processors later this quarter. Dell Inc. said it will put the new chip and chip set into its Precision 380 workstation and Dimension XPS PC in the coming weeks.

Intel spokesperson Bill Kircos said the company traditionally has introduced new technology to the client space first, where its easier to validate such issues as production and supply. Mission-critical servers are not the place to do that, Kircos said. Dual-core capabilities for Intels Xeon and 64-bit Itanium processors will hit the market later this year.

Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata Inc., in Nashua, N.H., said Intels decision to focus first on the client is based more on technology than on marketing. Intel in the last year has made several changes to its product road maps, including the cancellation of its "Tejas" and "Jayhawk" Pentium and Xeon chips, respectively, to focus on dual-core processing.

Intel officials downplay the issue of being first with dual-core, saying that by the end of next year, more than 70 percent of the companys processors shipped will be multicore. However, Haff said being first shouldnt be overlooked.

Opteron and Athlon 64 were built with dual-core processing in mind, AMDs Ruiz said. The dual-core chips will fit in the same space as current 90-nanometer processors.

Jason Holmes, lead systems administrator at The Pennsylvania State Universitys IT Services department, will be bringing in dual-core systems next month at the university. "Since the HPC [high-performance computing] community that we are a part of has an extensive existing investment in parallel applications that can take advantage of multiple processors, we feel that our transition to multiple processors with dual-core technology will be seamless and transparent," said Holmes in State College.