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Intel's New Tulsa Chip Bolsters Fight With AMD

Major server manufacturers Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM all announced new systems based on Tulsa.
Intel's long-awaited Tulsa processor debuted Tuesday with the introduction of a new Xeon processor platform for multiprocessor server implementations that promises twice the performance and three times the performance-per-watt of the company's existing and struggling offerings for the market segment.

The multiprocessor server market has been a major weakness for Intel, with rival Advanced Micro Devices taking almost half of the market for x86 processors used in the four-way server segment, according to Gartner. Intel promises that Tulsa will help stem that tide, but the market will have to wait until next year for the introduction of the first devices to utilize the company's new Core architecture design for the multiprocessor segment.

"We had fallen behind on performance, and performance is critical in this segment," says Kirk Skaugen, VP and general manager of the server products group for Intel. "This clearly demonstrates we are back."

The Tulsa introduction concludes Intel "summer of servers," Skaugen says, as the leading microprocessor vendor has now overhauled its portfolio from top to bottom, including the Woodcrest platform for two-processor implementation introduction in June, and the first dual-core Itanium processors for the high-end RISC market added with the Montecito introduction last month.

Skaugen says the performance gains of Tulsa platform does not represent two steps forward and one step back. But the new platform is a reversal of its technology roadmap, representing perhaps the last significant new platform based on its older NetBurst architecture as the company transitions to the newer Core architecture based designs.

While Tulsa has been highly anticipated, it actually arrives to market six months or more ahead of the original target date of the first quarter of 2007, Skaugen says.

"We have now refreshed the entire [server processor] roadmap with 23 different MPUs in 100 days, which is unprecedented," he says.

Major server manufacturers Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM all announced new systems based on Tulsa, demonstrating that prior introductions for the multiprocessor server market based on AMD's Opteron market were incremental introductions and not replacements of Intel-based designs, Skaugen says.

Tulsa represents up to a four times improvement in performance per CPU dollar, he says. The prior high-end Xeon processor for multi-processor servers was priced at $3,150, while the new high-end Tulsa is priced at $1,980.

The dual-core Xeon 7100, code-named Tulsa, uses a 16-Mbyte shared level 3 cache, the largest on-chip memory processors for Intel in the x86 market. The processors also are socket compatible with Intel's existing multiprocessor server platforms.