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Intel's Sweet On Virtualization's Future With Quad-Core Xeon MP

The chipmaker revealed six migration-friendly processors with Caneland chipsets designed to help companies build out their virtualization and server consolidation plans.
Intel on Wednesday took the wraps off six quad-core Xeon processors it hopes will entice companies to expand their collection of virtualization servers without having to worry about software upgrades for a couple of years.

The 7300 series of Xeon chips -- bundled under the Tigerton family name -- were designed for multiprocessor servers, a staple of database, enterprise resource planning, and Java enterprise applications. The product line completes Intel's expandable offerings for servers that scale up to 32-way systems.

The processors include frequencies up to 2.93 GHz at 130 watts, several 80-watt processors, and one 50-watt version optimized for four socket blades and high-density rack form factors with a frequency of 1.86 GHz. The chips are available for ordering now. Prices range from $856 to $2,301 in quantities of 1,000.

In addition to the core architecture, the processors also are equipped with a chipset package designed for expanding virtualization environments. The chipsets are augmented by what Intel calls its "dedicated high-speed interconnect." Unlike Intel's front-side bus connection that shares data pathways, the updated interconnect links a single processor to a single chipset.

Also native to the new Xeon 7300 chips is Intel's attempt to make a series of chipsets socket compatible. Dubbed "VT FlexMigration," the design will make the Xeon 7300 series consistent with Intel's other multi-processor chips through at least its next-generation 45-nanometer process core micro-architecture, code-named Nehalem, which is expected in late 2008.

"With FlexMigration, if you are going to be buying servers over a period of time, you can add new servers to the system in a virtual environment, and not worry about migration to future hardware," Tom Kilroy, Intel VP and co-general manager of the Digital Enterprise Group, told InformationWeek. "That means, if your Caneland system is about to fail, you can convert a whole machine over to a server running a Nehalem chip without shutting down applications."

The future migration and virtualization issue became apparent as previous versions of VMware software had be upgraded along with updated hardware. Going forward, that is expected to be less of an issue as VMware and Intel have worked together to optimize VMware ESX Server on the Xeon 7300, said VMware VP of R&D Stephen Alan Herrod.

VMware and Intel are expected to announce further collaboration in the next two weeks, when each hosts a developer's conference.

Intel is optimistic about the market adoption of the Xeon 7300 series, as a number of white-boxes have been shipping to the company's partners since June for internal specification testing, Kilroy said.

The latest addition to Intel's stockpile of server partners, Kilroy noted, was Sun Microsystems, which has certified its hardware for Intel x86 processors.

"Sun brings along all of their ISVs [Independent Software Vendors],'' he said, "as well as the Solaris operating system and thousands of applications that operate on it."