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Intel 'Madison' Ships, OEMs Update Servers

Intel this week delivered its third-generation 64-bit processor, the "Madison" release of the Itanium 2 processor. Major server vendors including Dell, HP and IBM are poised with systems built on the higher performance chip.

Madison, which carries the same official "Itanium 2" product name as the last official release, code-named "McKinley," brings higher clockspeeds and much larger caches to the Itanium 2 line. The Madison chips come in three versions. There's a 1.5-GHz version with 6 MB of cache for $4,226 each in 1,000-unit quantities. A 1.4-GHz version with 4 MB of cache costs $2,247, and a 1.3-GHz version with 3 MB of cache costs $1,338.

The McKinley line of Itanium 2s came at 1 GHz with either 3 MB or 1.5 MB of cache and 900 MHz with 1.5 MB of cache. Intel plans to release another set of Itanium processors later this year, code-named "Deerfield," with less cache and less voltage for dual-processor machines.

Intel aimed to show the momentum of its Itanium 2 processors by highlighting existing scalability benchmarks and the number of massive systems being built around the chip. At the time Intel was briefing reporters on the Madison processor, the chip held the highest position on the flagship TPC-C scalability benchmark. This week, in what IBM claims was pure coincidence, Big Blue's Unix/RISC team in the eServer pSeries group posted a new benchmark that displaced a Madison-based system from HP. (See story).

HP, NEC and Unisys all offer greater-than-eight-processor servers running Madison processors. SGI and Fujitsu have roadmaps for servers based on Itanium 2 that are supposed to scale up to 128 processors. "These people build them because their customers ask for them. They don't do it because we [Intel] tell them to," said Mike Fister, senior vice president and general manager for the Intel Enterprise Platforms Group.

IBM and Dell are currently offering smaller systems based on Madison.

Intel's first major 64-bit chip release was the "Merced" version of Itanium that came out in 2001 and saw very little industry adoption. McKinley, the second-generation of Itanium, was released in summer 2002.

Intel notes that according to IDC research, 85 percent of server shipments are boxes with Intel processors inside. But the company has some ground to gain in the market for servers with four processors or more. And that market accounts for 60 percent of server revenues, according to IDC. Enhancements to Itanium 2 in the Madison release are part of Intel's effort to claim more of those revenues.

On the 32-bit side of the enterprise market, Intel also released new processors this week. The company refreshed its Intel Xeon MP processor line with new speeds and cache sizes. A 2.8-GHz Xeon with 2 MB of cache will sell for $3,692, a 2.5-GHz Xeon with 1 MB of cache will go for $1,980 and a 2-GHz Xeon with 1 MB of cache will cost $1,177.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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