April 13, 2011
Intel, which has had its commitment to the Itanium platform challenged by Oracle, says it will ship the next version of the server processor on schedule next year.
Kirk Skaugen, VP and general manager of Intel's Data Center Group, underscored the company's support for the 64-bit RISC architecture during his Wednesday keynote at the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing. While the next version of Itanium, codenamed Poulson, will launch on time, Intel still refuses to provide a narrower timetable. Poulson is an eight-core chip with 3.1 billion transistors, the most of any current microprocessor, according to Intel. The processor has twice the performance of the current quad-core Itanium 9300, formerly called Tukwila, and provides 33% more bandwidth through higher bus speeds. Other improvements include better power management and lower overall socket power consumption. Oracle sent Intel and Hewlett-Packard, the top Itanium customer, into a tizzy last month when it said it would halt software development on Itanium. Oracle said it had lost confidence in Intel's commitment to the platform, goading CEO Paul Otellini into issuing a statement saying work on Itanium continued "unabated with multiple generations of chips currently in development and on schedule." Some industry observers saw Oracle's statements as self-serving, given that it owns the competing Sparc processor, which the company acquired through the purchase last year of Sun Microsystems. Nevertheless, Oracle's abandonment of Itanium leaves HP as the last major server manufacturer still supporting the processor. Patrick Ward, an Intel spokesman, said in an interview that Intel is already working on Poulson's successor, codenamed Kittson. Intel has not said when the latter chip will be released, but Ward says the company plans to release new versions of Itanium roughly every two years. "We have a full Itanium roadmap flushed out," he says. Both chips use the same socket as the current Itanium, making it easier for customers to boost the performance of their servers without buying new hardware, other than the chips. During the keynote, Skaugen had Intel customers Huawei and Inspur, both based in China, demonstrat Poulson performance on upcoming servers. Other makers of Itanium-based servers include Hitachi, NEC, and Super Micro, Ward says. Skaugen also provided an update on Intel's Many Integrated Core (MIC) architecture. The specialty processors are targeted at highly parallel applications used in high-performance computers found in scientific research, oil and gas exploration, weather modeling, and other tasks requiring huge amounts of data crunching. Intel's first MIC product will be based on its upcoming 22-nanometer manufacturing process, which could begin ramping up at the end of the year. Intel expects to have more than 100 developer sites for MIC, and the company is on track to deliver a software programming model for handling highly parallel workloads on the platform, Skaugen says.
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