Itanium 2 chips appear in HP, Unisys servers

The second generation of Intel Corp.'s 64-bit Itanium processor has reached the server and workstation market, but it will not supplant IA-32 or other 64-bit CPUs for some time.

The Itanium 2 made its debut in hardware from Hewlett-Packard Co., which codeveloped the Itanium architecture with Intel, and Unisys Corp. The original Itanium suffered from a dearth of applications written for the new architecture.

Intel intended the 64-bit Explicitly Parallel Instruction-set Computing (EPIC) architecture for high-end enterprise use, said Mike Graf, Intel's Itanium product line manager. He said EPIC chips were never meant to run everyday applications, but rather massive databases and business intelligence systems.

The Itanium 2, formerly code-named McKinley, has 3M of onboard cache and about 221 million transistors in its 0.18-micron fabrication. The front-side bus bandwidth is 6.4 gigabytes/sec, about triple that of the original Itanium, Graf said. A single

1-GHz Itanium 2 CPU with 3M cache costs an equipment manufacturer $4,226.

Footprints for all ages

The 1-GHz core frequency is only 25 percent faster than the 800-MHz original Itanium's, but Intel has predicted the new chip will run 64-bit applications 50 percent to 100 percent faster than the original. All Itanium processors have a common footprint so that newer ones can be plugged into older systems, Graf said.

Third-generation Itanium chips now under development are code-named Madison, with a 6M cache, and Deerfield, with a 3M cache. Both processors will have about 500 million transistors and 0.13-micron fabrication, Graf said.

The fourth-generation IA-64 chip, code-named Montecito, will have 0.09-micron technology, meaning its transistors are twice as densely packed as in the Itanium 2.

John M. Kost, vice president of worldwide public-sector research for Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn., said 64-bit versions of the Linux and Microsoft .Net operating systems should be ready next year.

HP developed an accompanying zx1 chip set for its Itanium 2 products, said Jim Zafarana, HP's worldwide marketing manager for workstations.

Barry Crume, product marketing manager for HP's workstation business unit, said the zx1 chip set connects the CPU to memory and I/O devices at a maximum bandwidth of 6.4 gigabytes/sec. In comparison, the 133-MHz PCI-X bus widely used today has a maximum bandwidth of 1 gigabyte/sec, Crume said.

A number of floating-point-intensive applications already are available for Itanium 2, and many commercial applications will be available by the end of the year, Zafarana said.

HP's zx2000 workstation has a single 900-MHz Itanium 2 and up to 4G of RAM with a theoretical peak speed of 3.6 billion floating-point operations per second. Its estimated street price ranges from $4,500 to $11,000 with built-in Gigabit Ethernet and graphics cards.

The HP zx6000 workstation can have one or two 900-MHz or 1-GHz Itanium 2 processors and up to 12G of RAM. Its street price ranges from $6,400 to $27,000.

HP's two-way rx2600, priced from $7,300, is a server version of the zx6000 workstation, except its graphics card is replaced by another I/O slot, Crume said.

The four-way rx5670 server, the largest in the line so far, has a memory carrier rack with 24 dual in-line memory module slots and a starting price of $23,400.

HP's 64-bit HP-UX 11i OS will incorporate best-in-class functions from the Tru64 Unix OS acquired in HP's acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp. Also, HP has launched an international consortium called the Gelato Foundation to promote open-source research applications for Itanium.

A Dell Computer Corp. representative said there are no immediate plans to work Itanium 2 into the product line.

SGI, another longtime vendor of 64-bit systems, sees room for both MIPS and Itanium 2 processors in its line.

High on open source

'We're totally in favor of Itanium 2, and we're interested in scalable open source,' said Addison Snell, SGI's marketing manager for high-performance computing.

But SGI has not yet announced any Itanium 2 products. It continues to design low-power MIPS processors. The MIPS R14000, manufactured by a 0.13-micron process, has a peak speed of 1.2 GFLOPS, and SGI wants to achieve 3.2 GFLOPS by 2004, Snell said.

Unisys Corp. enterprise servers can handle either 64-bit Itanium 2 or 32-bit Pentium Xeon chips. The 16-way Aries ES7000 server joins a line of 32-way ES7000 servers, said Mark Feverston, Unisys' vice president of enterprise server marketing.

The Orion Model 130 accommodates up to 32 Itanium 2 processors and can be partitioned into two 16-way systems, Feverston said.

Because the Itanium 2 can't be mixed with IA-32 processors, other models in the Orion line combine older Itanium CPUs with Pentium Xeon MP or Pentium III Xeon processors.

Aries pricing ranges from $75,000 to $300,000, and Orion pricing from $140,000 to $700,000, Feverston said.

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