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Intel Releases New Specs For Itanium Successor

Itanium 2 will debut this summer at a speed of 1 GHz and will feature 3 Mbytes of on-die (level 3) cache and three times the internal bus bandwidth of its predecessor.

Intel on Wednesday released new performance specifications for its forthcoming McKinley chip, the successor to its 64-bit Itanium processor. Powerful 64-bit chips are key to Intel's strategy of edging out servers based on Sun Microsystems in the high-end data center market and could give CIOs a more economical option for running critical applications such as databases and transaction systems.

McKinley, or Itanium 2, as Intel is now calling the chip, will debut this summer at a speed of 1 GHz and will feature 3 Mbytes of on-die (level 3) cache and three times the internal bus bandwidth of its predecessor. All that adds up to screaming application performance, the company says. For instance, Intel says a four-processor Itanium 2 system will handle more than twice the number of sales and distribution transactions as earlier Itanium systems. In processing secure E-commerce transactions that require Secure Sockets Layer decryption, Intel says a two-processor Itanium 2 system in tests performed 1,440 transactions per second, about the same number performed by a four-processor Itanium system.

Intel has yet to release pricing for Itanium 2 chips, but they will doubtless sell at a premium over Itanium. Still, analysts say the fact that a single Itanium 2 appears capable of performing the work of two Itanium chips should ultimately mean that Itanium 2 will offer lower total cost of ownership compared with its predecessor and to Sun systems. "It appears to be a superior value proposition," says Brooks Gray, a Technology Business Research analyst.

Gray cautions, however, that Itanium 2 isn't field tested and that the chip doesn't yet have the broad application support enjoyed by Intel 32-bit servers and Sun servers. "That could limit the platform's success, at least in the short term," Gray says. Analysts expect Dell Computer, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM to sell Itanium 2 servers.

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