The Tukwila server processor release was pushed back to add compatibility with DDR3 memory chips and with the motherboard socket that will be used in future Itanium chips.
Intel on Wednesday said it would delay shipping its first quad-core Itanium chip until midyear.
Code-named Tukwila, the RISC-based server processor was scheduled to ship early this year. However, Intel decided to push back the release by several months in order to add capabilities, a company spokesman told InformationWeek. "The processor itself is fine, but Intel has made the decision to add some engineering enhancements."
Tukwila is built using a next-generation manufacturing process that shrinks the size of transistors on each core to 65 nanometers from the current 90 nm. The process means Tukwila will have 2 billion transistors, providing a significant increase in speed. The chip will also have 30 MB of on-die cache and dual integrated memory controllers for more balanced performance, Intel said.
The power boost is important to make Itanium more competitive against its biggest rival, IBM's Power6 processor, which is faster than the current version of Itanium, experts say.
The key enhancements being added to Tukwila during the delay include compatibility with DDR3 memory chips. DDR3 SDRAM, which stands for double-data-rate three synchronous dynamic random access memory, moves data at twice the rate of predecessor DDR2, which translates into higher bus rates and higher peak rates. In addition, the DDR3 standard allows for chip capacities of 512 Mb to 8 Gb, which effectively enable a maximum memory module size of 16 GB.
Another improvement being added to Tukwila is compatibility with the same motherboard socket that will be used in future Itanium chips, code-named Poulson and Kittson. Using the same socket means customers can upgrade without changing hardware, which is pivotal since the high-end systems that use Itanium are expensive.
Poulson, a 32-nm processor, will ship first and have more than four cores per processor and more threads than Tukwila. No details have been released for Kittson, and Intel has not said when it would ship the future chips.
Intel said computer makers have accepted the delay as necessary to give them the features they want. "We think these moves are definitely in the Itanium customer interests," the spokesman said.
Hewlett-Packard accounts for the majority of Itanium system deployments. HP uses the chips to power its HP-UX operating system within Integrity and Integrity NonStop servers. Other vendors that sell Itanium systems include Fujitsu, Hitachi, and NEC, all second-tier server vendors in the United States.
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