Intel Adds 64-Bit Xeons For Multiprocessor Servers

Intel introduced five new Xeon MP processors--targeted at two-way and four-way server systems--and the E8500 chipset for the Xeon MP platform. The new Xeons will provide up to a 70% improvement over existing devices for multiprocessor systems, Intel senior VP Pat Gelsinger said during a press conference.

In addition, Andy Lees, corporate VP for Microsoft's server and tools business, said during the conference that details of its release of Windows Server 2003 64-bit edition will be unveiled at the WinHEC show in late April, and that work on the software has entered its "final stages." Lees said that the move from 32-bit to 64-bit capabilities, as well as the pending move to dual-core processors beginning later this year and into 2006, will enable improved capabilities "without a price penalty for the extra performance."

Lees reiterated Microsoft's plan to charge software licenses based on the number of sockets in a systems, not the number of cores. When four-way server systems move to dual-core processors, providing a total of eight processing cores, for example, Microsoft will charge four software licenses for its SQL Server platform, compared with Oracle's plan to require eight licenses for its software.

During the conference, representatives from Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Unisys described new servers that will utilize the new Xeon MP processors. The new systems include the PowerEdge 6800 tower system and 6850 rack-mounted systems disclosed by Dell last week, new ProLiant DL580 and DL570 servers from HP, the eServer xSeries 366 from IBM, and ES7000 from Unisys.

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The 64-bit Xeon MP processors let HP move capabilities previously found only in its eight-way systems to the four-way market, says Colin Lacey, director of platform marketing for industry-standard servers organization at HP. "We're seeing with the emergence of more virtualization, the multiprocessor market is heating up again, and we see this as a prime time to introduce next-generation multiprocessor platforms," Lacey says.

The new Xeon MP processors combine Extended Memory 64 Technology, PCI Express, DDR2-400 memory, and demand-based switching with Enhanced Intel SpeedStep technology, Gelsinger said. The new processors range from a 3.33 GHz device with eight Mbytes of Level 3 on-chip cache, priced at $3,692 each in quantities of 1,000, to a 3.16 GHz version with 1 Mbyte of on-chip Level 2 cache, priced at $722.

The new chips come 10 years after Intel introduced its first processor for multiprocessor server systems, the Pentium Pro, Gelsinger said. "It's exciting today to come forward and see the next chapter," he said.

Kevin Knox, VP of worldwide commercial business development for Advanced Micro Devices Inc., says the company has been supporting 64-bit use across its Opteron portfolio, and believes the latest move by Intel supports its position in the market and will help to get software developers to more quickly port their solutions from 32-bit operation to 64-bit. "The difference of our approach was a commitment to 64-bits from the ground up," Knox says. "We started from a clean slate to develop a 64bit processor. They are retrofitting an existing architecture."

Gelsinger said that the market is not overly concerned about what company might have a momentary lead in bringing 64-bit or dual-core processing solutions to the market, but that it will look to the breadth of support a company can provide. "When customers are making decisions about platforms of this performance level, they're looking at decisions that will last five to 10 years," he said.

Intel also unveiled the Intel Software Network, a collection of software development products, tools, training, and expert advice designed to help software developers bring products to market faster on Intel platforms. The initial rollout of the network includes tools, tips, and training for developers grappling with multicore architectures, 64-bit extensions, advanced manageability, and other technologies.