Intel Rolls Out Quad-core Chips

OEMs line up to offer new systems powered by the processors.

Intel is entering the quad-core era.

The Santa Clara, Calif., company on Nov. 14 rolled out its first chips with four processing cores for servers, workstations and desktop PCs, and OEMs large and small are supporting the move with systems powered by the chips.

Dell and IBM a week earlier announced systems that were ready for Intels new processors, and Hewlett-Packard, Gateway and Verari Systems were among the server makers unveiling new hardware in conjunction with Intels rollout.

"[End users] can benefit today, in about every application running in servers today," said Steve Smith, vice president and director of operations at Intels Digital Enterprise Group.

Intel is introducing the Xeon 5300 family of processors for servers—formerly code-named Clovertown—as well as the Core 2 Extreme quad-core QX6700 for high-end client systems. The chips, built using Intels 65-nanometer manufacturing process, offer 1.5 times the performance of current dual-core offerings and four times the performance of single-core Xeons, Smith said. The processors have been shipping to manufacturers for several weeks, Smith said.

Those gains come within the same power envelope—about 80 watts for the quad-core mainstream chips—and the same prices as Intels dual-core processors, he said. The Xeon 5300 series comes with four chips that range in speed from 1.6GHz to 2.66GHz and range in price from $455 to $1,172 per 1,000 units shipped. The client quad-core chip costs $999, with a frequency of 2.66GHz and a power envelope up to 130 watts.

The new chips thrust Intel ahead of rival Advanced Micro Devices in the race to quad-core processing after three years of watching AMD beat Intel to the punch on such technologies as 64-bit x86 computing and dual-core technologies. AMD is expected to launch its first quad-core chips next year.

AMD officials have criticized Intels Clovertown architecture, saying its design of essentially tying two dual-core chips onto a single piece of silicon is less elegant than AMDs upcoming native four-core design.

Smith dismissed such criticism. "AMD is talking about architecture because they dont have a product," he said.

Smith said that using the Clovertown architecture enabled Intel to get first to market with x86 quad-core technology, in addition to improving manufacturing output and flexibility.

"As a user, what I care about is getting four cores, using four cores and getting results," Smith said. "It doesnt matter how theyre put together."

Charles Orndorff, vice president of infrastructure services for Crossmark Holdings, said his company has a mix of Intel- and AMD-based servers from HP, though the only dual-core chips he uses currently are AMDs Opterons. However, Orndorff said he will look at systems with Intels new quad-core chips.

"If its price-competitive with existing technologies and we have a need for such processing, why not?" said Orndorff in Plano, Texas.

A key driver of adoption will be what software vendors decide on pricing, Orndorff said. Currently, companies such as Microsoft and SAP price software on a per-socket—rather than per-core—basis. "But what do you do when you put in a four-way quad core?" Orndorff asked. "Then youre running what is really 16 cores. What will they do then?"

HP is offering nine new systems that started shipping the week of Intels announcement, said Christina Tiner, group manager for product marketing in HPs Industry Standard Server group. The HP systems touch on every segment, from the low-end ProLiant ML150 G3 to the BladeSystem c-Class blade server platform.

In addition to the servers, HP is putting Intels Xeon 5300 and Extreme QX6700 chips in new workstations.

Gateway, which earlier in November unveiled its first AMD-powered servers, will offer Intels quad-core chips in its 1U (1.75-inch) and 2U (3.5-inch) systems and its high-end FX530 consumer desktop.

Verari will update its line of Intel-based systems and blade servers with the new quad-core Xeons. Verari announced the servers at the SC06 show Nov. 14 in Tampa, Fla.