Intel Ships 64-Bit Xeon Chip

Updated: Intel's dual-processor 32-bit Xeon includes 64-bit extensions, enabling it to run 32-bit and 64-bit applications equally well.

After years of rumors and months of promise, Intel Corp. on Monday rolled out its first x86 chip with 64-bit extensions, officially launching the next-generation dual-processor Xeon chip, code-named Nocona.

Intel will roll out its EM64T (Extended Memory 64 Technology), featured in the Nocona processor, gradually over the course of the year. The first chip set supporting the technology–the e7525, code-named Tumwater–is currently shipping, but Intel will only be able to deliver a multiprocessor Xeon capable of 64-bit processing by the end of the year, Intel executives said.

Intels decision to compete head-to-head with rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. by bringing 64-bit capabilities into its Xeon processors should result in a greater number of hardware and software options for enterprises looking for a gradual transition from 32-bit to 64-bit computing. However, OS support for Intels new technology will also lag, and one analyst said that 64-bit drivers will not be immediately available for all legacy hardware.

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The new Nocona chips, available at speeds between 2.8GHz and 3.6GHz, will first appear in workstations such as Hewlett-Packard Co.s dual-processor xw6200 and xw8200, due this week, and later this summer will find their way into servers. Intels Nocona will be shipped in products from at least 10 manufacturers at launch, according to Abhi Talwalkar, vice president and general manager of the enterprise platforms group at Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel. Talwalkar introduced the processor in a conference with reporters Monday morning.

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The Nocona/Tumwater platform also offers performance enhancements such as DDR2 memory support and PCI Express. Intel executives said that the new processor delivers between 8 percent and 30 percent more performance on selected benchmarks than a 32-bit processor lacking the EM64T technology.

In August, Intel will ship a version of the Nocona for dual-processor servers, single-processor servers, and single-processor workstations—the first use of EM64T technology under the Pentium name, said Richard Dracott, group director for the Enterprise Platforms Group at Intel in Hillsboro, Ore. The next wave of processors will be shipped at the end of 2004, when Intel will ship a 64-bit-capable Xeon MP for four-way servers.

"We see typically that most customers migrate over to using new processors very quickly," Dracott said in an interview. "The Xeon MP will move slower. The MP market is more conservative, and takes longer for new deployments as well."

By the end of the year, the "vast majority" of workstations and low-end servers will be 64-bit capable, Talwalkar added.

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