Revved-Up Itaniums, Xeons to Headline IDF

At next week's Intel Developers Forum, Intel will tout the improved performance of Itanium, the virtual dual-CPU capability of its upcoming Xeon, a 5GHz Pentium 4, and its latest communication and networking advancements.

Intel Corp. will tout the improved performance of its next Itanium processor, the virtual dual-CPU capability of its upcoming Xeon chips, a 5GHz Pentium 4, and its latest communication and networking advancements at the companys spring conference next week.

Described by the chip maker as a "jam session for developers," Intel, based in Santa Clara, Calif., uses the forums -- two held in the United States each year and another eight scheduled around the globe -- to outline its product plans and to seek to assure hardware and software industry support for its designs.

Intel Chief Executive Craig Barrett will open the four-day Intel Developers Forum Monday at the Moscone Center in San Francisco by delivering his "Technology Industry State of the Union." The CEO will urge developers, many of whom have cut expenses to weather an economic recession, to invest in new technologies to revive the industry that is poised for an "imminent technological evolution."

After Barretts pep talk, Itanium and Xeon processors will take center stage as Intel senior executives detail the latest architectural enhancements designed to boost the performance of the companys 64- and 32-bit chips for high-end workstations and servers.

Much of the attention will be focused on Intels second-generation Itanium processor, known as McKinley, thats scheduled to be launched by midyear. Intel contends the 64-bit chip, which it has recently begun piloting in test systems, will offer twice the performance of the current 733MHz and 800MHz Itanium chips on the market, known by the code name Merced.

Initially to be offered at a 1GHz clock speed, McKinley will feature a larger Level 2 cache (256KB), an on-die 3MB Level 3 cache and an enhanced system bus offering up to 6.4GB per second of bandwidth. Intel contends the processor will deliver up to two times the performance of its existing Itanium processor on current applications and even greater performance if those applications are recompiled to take advantage of McKinleys enhancements.

Intel views Itanium, which it developed over seven years at a cost of about $1 billion, as its flagship processor and is counting on the design to enable the chip maker to break into the high-end 64-bit market currently dominated by Sun Microsystems Inc., IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co. That market segment is particularly attractive to Intel in that it offers much larger profit margins than the chip maker currently enjoys with its Pentium and Celeron product lines.

But since Itaniums introduction last May, the chip has largely received the cold shoulder from enterprise customers, resulting in the processor appearing in less than 1 percent of 64-bit workstations and servers shipped last year. Intel is optimistic the much faster McKinley will finally attract so far reluctant enterprise buyers.