Intel Winds Up One-Two Server Punch

Intel plans to aggressively price its older "Dempsey" processor to make it appealing to customers not grappling with heat management problems. Meanwhile, AMD readies a server-chip counterstrike for late summer.

Heather Clancy, Contributor

June 26, 2006

4 Min Read

Even as Intel began seeding VARs and system builders with 1,200 dual-core Woodcrest CPUs, a high-ranking executive talked up the existing Dempsey product shipped just last month as the "street fighter" for the channel.

Woodcrest, officially the Intel Xeon Processor 5100 series, began trickling out in production this week, said Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Digital Enterprise Group at a press conference in New York.

The new processor line is based on Intel's new Core Microarchitecture, which promises platform advances including improved power management capabilities, more intelligent caching and memory options and an increase in the number of tasks that can be run in parallel.

One point underscored repeatedly at the launch is the technology's reduced heat profile. The 3GHz edition will ship with a Thermal Design Point of 80 watts, while the other offerings will operate at 65 watts, according to Intel.

Gelsinger said Intel's fundamental processor enhancements, combined with Intel's new virtualization hardware, a smart shared cache and its Fully Buffered DIMM (FBDIMM) technology, which builds on the existing DDR 2 memory format, promise a three-fold increase in performance along with a 40 percent decrease in power consumption compared with Intel Xeon single-core offerings.

What's more, Intel plans to move to release a quad-core version, codenamed Clovertown, early next year, he said.

"We're going to be delivering our quad-core before they even have a chance to respond to Woodcrest," Gelsinger said, in response to a question about the competitive dynamic with Advanced Micro Devices.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel, which has shied away in recent years from offering up benchmark comparisons against its chief rival, is reversing that stance with the Xeon Processor 5100 series onslaught by holding up a series of third-party performance comparisons.

The lead demonstrated in many of these tests is not guaranteed, however. System builders say AMD is expected to ship in August or September its server refresh, which uses DDR2 memory. Many are expecting performance to be closely matched to the Intel lineup, varying by application type.

AMD also has what it calls a "true quad-core" lined up for mid 2007, but some system builders think the chip maker could release it earlier. In 2005, AMD more than doubled its share in servers to 16.4 percent, according to Mercury Research.

The pricing for the Intel Xeon 5100 series will range from $209 to $851 per processor in 1,000-unit quantities, and were set in keeping with traditional Intel pricing strategies, Gelsinger said. Pricing for the Xeon 5000 lineup ranges from $177 to $851. The high-end of the 5100 line boasts a 3GHz CPU with 4 Mbytes of L2 cache, while the 5000 series tops out with a 3.73GHz offering. A channel-only SKU for the 5000 series processor, packaged using the 2.8 Ghz chip, is priced at around $180.

When it comes to differentiating the new Intel Xeon 5100 line (aka Woodcrest) from the Xeon 5000 series (aka Dempsey), which launched in May, Gelsinger said Intel will be more aggressive than usual in adjusting pricing for Dempsey.

He said Dempsey will become Intel's "street fighter" product for system builders and in emerging markets that are not yet grappling with the power-management challenges associated with high-density data center.

"I see us throwing a lot of our weight behind the Woodcrest over the Dempsey in the long term, obviously," said Chuck Orcutt, Nexlink server business development manager at Seneca Data, an Intel Premier Provider in North Syracuse, N.Y. "Especially for us, having the lower wattage will be the value."

Steve Dallman, director of N.A. Distribution & Channel Marketing at Intel, downplayed questions regarding the pricing differential between the two newest Xeon server lines, emphasizing instead the fact that systems configured around either chip will be "drop-in" compatible. That is, they can accommodate either CPU as well as the Clovertown quad-cored edition planned for early next year.

Dallman said Intel plans to use its traditional fall road show series to train approximately 9,000 channel partners about the Core 2 Duo architecture, and it has obtained 1,200 seed units specifically for the channel. VARs and sytem builders can also expect distributor-specific promotions and rebates.

In addition, the company is working with software companies to provide better support for server stacks it has deemed critical for adoption of the Woodcrest technology, including Vmware, LANDdesk, Syam Software and Asterisk.

"We're going to try to win every server design in the country," Dallman said.

KRISTEN KENEDY contributed to this story.

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