Intel delays Itanium upgrade to add new capabilities

Intel on Tuesday said it has delayed the release of the quad-core Tukwila chip to add new features.

Intel on Tuesday said it has delayed the release of the quad-core Tukwila chip, its next-generation 64-bit Itanium processor designed for use in enterprise servers.

The chip maker will now release Tukwila around the middle of this year, Intel officials said. The chip was due for release early this year, but Intel delayed it to add new capabilities to keep the chip in line with future technology advancements.

"[Tukwila] is very healthy, [the delay is] not due to the product not being healthy," said Susan Tauzer, server marketing director at Intel. "We updated the schedule based on adding a couple of end-user benefits and engineering capabilities," Tauzer said.

Intel plans to add a new memory technology that can speed up server performance and provide backward-socket compatibility for future Itanium chips as it readies the Tukwila platform.

Intel is making the Tukwila socket backward-compatible for a future generation of Itanium CPUs, Tauzer said. Intel plans to follow up Tukwila with the Poulson and Kittson platforms, and chips from those platforms will plug into sockets designed for the Tukwila chip.

The company is also adding a new memory capability that takes advantage of the emerging DDR3 (double data rate, third generation) memory standard. Compared to current DDR2 memory, DDR3 allows information from the memory to be communicated to a CPU faster, which could translate to better server performance.

The new memory capability, called scalable buffer memory, can overcome traditional server memory limitations and pack additional memory capacity without adding new hardware. Sitting as an on-board component between the CPU and DDR3 memory, the technology manipulates communication channels to expand memory capacity and overcome limitations to the amount of memory that can fit in servers.

"As you look into the mission critical space, where higher capacities and bandwidths come into play, now you're implementing this solid component on board that's allowing you higher bandwidth and more capacities than what you would have had," said Rajesh Agny, marketing manager of the mission critical platform at Intel.

The new capabilities represent an implementation of future technologies that could be in multiple Itanium architectures going into the next decade, Tauzer said.

The Tukwila processor, announced in 2007, doubles the performance of Intel's current Itanium 9100 dual-core processors. The chip has about 2 billion transistors and includes 30MB of on-cache memory. Intel last year revealed the chip to run at 2GHz and said it would include dual-integrated memory controllers.

It also includes QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) technology, which integrates a memory controller and provides a faster pipe for the CPU to communicate with other system components.

The chip will be manufactured using the 65-nanometer process technology. Intel will skip the 45-nanometer process and jump to the 32-nanometer process for the Tukwila processor upgrade, code-named Poulson. Intel officials could not provide a timeframe for the release of Poulson. Poulson will be followed by Kittson.

Tukwila is targeted at servers running enterprise applications, so Intel is including RAS (reliability, availability, and serviceability) features to reduce data corruption and ensure reliable system performance. Advanced RAS features correct errors that may occur when data is being crunched on a processor.

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