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.
: High-End Workhorse”>
Xeon: High-End Workhorse
The picture is far different for Intels 32-bit Xeon line, which has gained widespread acceptance as the workhorse for high-end workstations and servers.
Intels latest Xeon innovation seeks to build on that momentum. First unveiled last year, a technology called hyperthreading will boost the performance of future Xeon chips up to 40 percent.
Overall, hyperthreading allows a single processor to handle two separate code streams, or threads, concurrently. In effect, it creates two logical processors inside a single physical processor. The logical processors share the core physical resources of the chip, such as the execution engine, caches and the system bus interface, but each logical processor can be directed to execute a specific thread independently.
The first Xeon chips to feature the technology are scheduled to be released this quarter, according to Intel sources.
For those with a need for speed, sources said Intel is looking to demonstrate a Pentium 4 processor running at 5GHz. Currently, the fastest Pentiums on the market run at 2.2GHz. At last years forum, the chip maker showed a P4 running at 3.5GHz.
While such blazing demonstrations underscore the performance potential of the Pentium 4 architecture, customers will likely have to wait two years or more before they can get their hands on a 5GHz chip. Based on Intels current road maps, the Pentium 4 line will exit the year at 2.8GHz, with a 3GHz version set for release in early 2003.
Intel will also outline speeds and feeds for upcoming desktop Celerons and mobile Pentium 4s and Pentium IIIs.
-Saving Chip on Tap”>
Energy-Saving Chip on Tap
The chip maker is also expected to reveal a few new details about what many in the industry consider to be its most intriguing new architecture, a processor known by the code name Banias.
Scheduled for release in 2003, the low-power chip will be primarily targeted for use in mobile PCs but will also be sold for use in high-density servers known as blades.
The chip, which will be designed in part from the Pentium III core, will feature a new energy-saving architecture that will cut off power to parts of the processor when they are not in use, potentially turning components on and off thousands of times per second.
Beyond its server and PC products, Intel will tout its new XScale technology designed to provide the processing power for mobile phones and handheld computers.
Last week, Intel released the first two chips based on the architecture, the PXA250 and PXA210, which it contends will deliver richer music, movies, games and business applications than competitive offering from Texas Instruments Inc., the leader in that market segment.
Next week, Intel will also introduce a new family of chips designed to power voice, data and media networks.
Attesting to the chip makers broad industry reach, attendees at the Intel Developers Forum can choose from 23 tracks of seminars covering a wide range of hardware and software technologies. Among the subjects covered are the latest developments in designing a new input/output architecture, called 3GIO; the next-generation Serial ATA; USB 2.0; InfiniBand; Ultra-wideband RF; 802.11; optical networking; and Gigabit Ethernet.