Intel Warns of Itanium 2 Bug

An electrical problem within some Itanium 2 chips can cause systems running on the 64-bit processors to "act improperly or shut down," says Intel.

An electrical problem within some Itanium 2 chips can cause systems running on the 64-bit processors to "act improperly or shut down," according to a company spokesperson.

The "errata" affects only a small number of Itanium 2 chips within the McKinley line, which run at 900MHz and 1GHz, and will not impact the next-generation Madison or Deerfield Itanium chips, due out later this year, Barbara Grimes said.

The problem is uncommon and can manifest itself only when a specific set of operations containing particular data is called for, Grimes said. The problem was reported to Intel earlier this year by a customer who discovered it during a series of stress tests, and confirmed by Intel through its own subsequent internal testing, she said.

The Santa Clara, Calif., chip maker is working with OEMs to figure out the best way of addressing the problem with customers. Users can either turn down the frequency to 800MHz, switch out processors or wait to upgrade to the new Madison chip, which is scheduled be released this summer, Grimes said.

IBM has stopped shipments of its Itanium 2-based eServer x450, a four-way system that the Armonk, N.Y., company announced at the end of last month. Lisa Lanspery, an IBM spokesperson, said there already are a few x450 servers in customer hands, but that "we have not received any complaints relating to the problem."

Lanspery said IBM has a "zero tolerance" policy relating to data corruption problems at a customers site, which is why the company decided to stop shipments of the x450 until the problem is resolved.

However, the errata doesnt have IBM reconsidering its support of Itanium. The company still plans to announce a Madison-based system later this year after that chip is announced.

A spokesman with Hewlett-Packard Co., which co-developed Itanium with Intel, said the Palo Alto, Calif., company is in the process of notifying customers about the problem with the chip and working with Intel to decide on the best way to address it. However, unlike IBM, HP is not putting a hold on the shipment of any Itanium 2-based products, said spokesman Jim Dunlap.

HP currently uses the chips in four products—the four-way rx5670 and two-way rx2600 servers, and the zx2000 and zx6000 workstations.

According to Dunlap, HP has a screen in place that can weed out the impacted Itanium 2 chips, ensuring that no systems are shipping with compromised chips.

"We know that the ones shipping are fine," he said.

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