Intel: Next-Generation Itanium Poulson Processors Coming Next Year

In a keynote address at the Intel Developer Forum 2011 in Beijing on Wednesday, Kirk Skaugen, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Data Center Group, said the chipmaker will launch its next-generation Itanium server processors, code-named Poulson, in 2012.

In February, Intel unveiled its Itanium-based Poulson processors and offered extensive details about its upcoming mission-critical computing product, without providing a specific timetable for its release. Featuring 3.1 billion transistors and twice the performance of its predecessor Tukwila, Poulson consists of eight cores, 54-MB on-die memory, 33 percent more bandwidth, and increased instruction throughput.

When Oracle revealed its intention to halt development of software that runs on Itanium, it also questioned Intel's commitment to the platform. "Intel management made it clear that their strategic focus is on their x86 microprocessor and that Itanium was nearing the end of its life," Oracle said in a statement last month.

Further fueling speculation that Intel, as Oracle claimed, is moving away from its Itanium server strategy, Intel last week launched high-end E7 processors under its Xeon server platform that offer additional energy-efficiency and security features as well as support for virtualization.

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In addition, Skaugen said Xeon is no longer strictly an entry-level product, that it is now side-by-side with the formerly higher-end Itanium architecture, and that the two product families will alternate in terms of product launches and availability. In contrast with Intel’s usual “tick-tock” strategy, Skaugen said Intel is employing a “tock-tock” strategy in which product releases are scheduled on an off-year basis. Although Intel will not update Itanium this year, Skaugen in his keynote re-affirmed Intel’s support for Itanium and demonstrated server systems from Chinese manufacturers Huawei and Inspur as examples of upcoming Itanium-based products from Intel’s data center partners. Skaugen also said Intel has recently completely refreshed its low-power micro-server portfolio, as well as its product lineup in the mission-critical segment of the microprocessor market.

“Intel is delivering products and technologies that are powering a continuum of computing across an expanding array of devices,” Skaugen said in a statement. “From micro servers to mission critical solutions, Intel is completely refreshing its data center product portfolio in 2011 to help organizations, ranging from social media networks to research institutes, to manage the explosion of data traffic that will eventually span more than 15 billion connected devices by 2015.”