Itanium to Move to Dual-Core Design

Intel exec reveals dual-core plans, calls Sun's UltraSparc III "old fashioned" and wonders if Dell is out of its league in the 64-bit arena.

SAN JOSE, Calif.—A senior executive with Intel Corp. Tuesday revealed plans for a dual-core Itanium processor, belittled Sun Microsystems Inc.s rival product as "old fashioned" and hinted that Dell Computer Corp. may be out of its league in the 64-bit arena during a briefing to tout the chip makers Itanium product line.

Mike Fister, general manager of Intels Enterprise Platforms Group, expressed his views on the high-end 64-bit computing market during a meeting with reporters at the Intel Developer Forum here.

Since Itanium was launched in May 2001, it has struggled to gain acceptance in the highly conservative high-end workstation and server markets, currently dominated by Sun, Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM. Intel is looking for sales to heat up following its August release of Itanium 2, which offers nearly doubles the performance of its predecessor.

At IDF this week, Intel touted its commitment to the new architecture by demonstrating systems already featuring the third-generation chip due out in mid-2003, code-named Madison.

In discussing the chips road map, Fister confirmed speculation that Intel will eventually migrate Itanium to a dual-core design, as rival 64-bit chip makers have done, or have announced plans to do.

"Without making a product announcement, sometime in the middle of the decade is the time when well do it," Fister said.

The executive added that Intels decision to roll out hyperthreading technologies across all its desktop and server processors will help set the stage for a transition to a dual-core design. Specifically, hyperthreading enables a single processor to handle dual data streams, like two virtual processors.

"Hyperthreading is kind of a protagonist, or arch type, for that" dual-core design, Fister said.

IBMs Power4 processor, which debuted last October, already features two cores, and HP and Sun have also announced plans to migrate their 64-bit processors to dual-CPU cores in the next two years.

Despite acknowledging that Intels rivals are well along in their plans to produce dual-core chips, Fister rejected the suggestions that Itaniums development is lagging.

"Were not behind," he said. "Its the price/performance that we concentrate on. When its time that we value the density you get by multicore integration, then well move."