Intel Completes 64-Bit Shift

Chip set, Xeon MP chips fill out lineup.

With the introduction last week of five new processors, Intel Corp. has at last completed its transition to a full line of 64-bit chips for its servers.

At a press conference last week in San Francisco, Intel unveiled its Xeon MP chips armed with Extended Memory 64 Technology, which enables the chips to run both 32- and 64-bit applications. At the same time, Intel rolled out the E8500 chip set—formerly code-named Twin Castle—which features a faster front-side bus and greater system bandwidth.

The move was the latest by the Santa Clara, Calif., company to improve performance beyond simply revving up the chip frequency. Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president and general manager of Intels Digital Enterprise Group, said Intel over the next few years will introduce features in its chips and chip sets that will offer greater virtualization, security and manageability features.

Last year, Intel brought the 64-bit capability to its Xeon DP chips for systems with one or two processors. Intel also is addressing the issue of power consumption with its Enhanced Intel SpeedStep and Demand-Based Switching features, which can throttle down the processor speed depending on workload demands.

Several OEMs introduced new systems based on the Xeon MPs. Hewlett-Packard Co., of Palo Alto, Calif., unveiled the ProLiant DL580 G3 and ProLiant ML570 G3, which offer not only the new chip but also enhanced management capabilities, including RAID Level 6 storage, integrated Lights Out Management and RAID memory.

Dell Inc., of Round Rock, Texas, last week rolled out the PowerEdge 6800 and 6850, which also take advantage of the new Xeon MPs.

Like HP, Dell also used the announcement to unveil enhanced management capabilities through its OpenManage 4.3 software, including greater remote management features and integration with Microsoft Corp.s Systems Management Server.

IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., last month unveiled its new X3 "Hurricane" chip set, which will run with the Xeon chips in the companys xSeries systems, as well as the x366 server, which can scale from four to 32 processors. Egenera Inc., of Marlboro, Mass., also rolled out two blade processor configurations based on the new chips.

Chip Burke, network engineer for MedCost Recovery Systems Inc., said 64-bit computing is attractive, but the test will be in the software support.

"Until there really is widespread software to use such a thing, it would kind of worry me to go in that direction," said Burke, whose Columbus, Ohio, company runs a variety of Dell servers. "In another year or two, that might be much different."

Some of that software is on the way. Microsoft Corp., of Redmond, Wash., next month will unveil its Windows Server 2003 for 64-bit systems, a move industry observers say will help spark 64-bit software growth.

Andy Lees, who is corporate vice president of Microsofts Servers and Tools Business, said that the next release of the Windows client, which is dubbed Longhorn and due out next year, will be 64-bit. Linux operating systems already support 64-bit computing.