Intel officially launched its long-awaited Itanium processor on Tuesday. The chip promises a new surge of competition in the server and workstation markets.
Major computer makers, including IBM, Hewlett Packard (HP) and Dell Computer, were among the 30 or so server makers that outlined plans for Itanium-based products to be rolled out in the coming weeks and months.
Itanium, which is the result of a seven-year joint development effort by Intel and HP, is the first in a family of 64-bit processors from the chip giant.
Unlike the Risc design of most high-end 64-bit chips, Itanium's Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing architecture enables the chip to work 20 operations simultaneously and its 64-bit 'addressability' is double that of Intel's 32-bit processor family.
HP plans to offer two Itanium servers: the rx4610, with up to four processors, and the rx9610, with up to 16 processors. IBM will also offer a new Itanium server in its X380 series.
But despite this, the first Itanium chip is two years late and expectations are low. Many in the industry expect it to be used mainly for testing, while others will wait for a second-generation chip, codenamed McKinley, which is due next year.
Microsoft, for example, has completed a limited edition of its Windows operating system tailored for Itanium but does not plan to release a final version until the end of the year.
Itanium systems will be offered with a variety of operating systems, including Windows, various Linux distributions, and versions of Unix from IBM and HP.
Kevin Krewell, an analyst at In-Stat/MDR, said that Intel is in the midst of a processor 'generational' change that is as important as any previous advance, such as that from 486 to Pentium or Pentium to Pentium II.
"Software vendors are specifically concerned about when to use new instructions, such as 3Dnow, SSE and IA-64. PC and system-logic makers need to know what sockets Intel and other chip vendors will be targeting during the next few years," he said.
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