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July debut for new 64-bit Intel chip

Eric Doyle
Intel's forthcoming Itanium 2 processors, the next version of its 64-bit processor, will be available in the middle of July according to sources close to its development.

Servers based on the new chip are likely to follow almost immediately.

The chip giant's first attempt at 64-bit computing, the Itanium, flopped because it is a "dead-end chip" with no practical upgrade path, said Kevin Krewell, general manager for chip analyst MDR.

Despite providing a significant boost to computing power compared to 32-bit processors, Intel sold fewer than 1,000 Itanium chips.

Itanium 2, known as McKinley throughout its development, will see wider adoption than the current Itanium processor but current servers cannot be upgraded without replacing the motherboard.

"Itanium 2 uses a different socket to its predecessor and, although Intel made no secret of this, it did not publicise the fact - it all depends on how well-informed the customer was," said Krewell.

Intel is not over-hyping Itanium 2 because it still has several 32-bit chips in the pipeline.

Ajay Malhotra, Intel's regional director of enterprise marketing, said, "Although the chips [Itanium 1 and 2] are not physically compatible, they can both run the same software.

"All major applications are in the process of being moved across. However, some may never be upgraded because they would not benefit from the 64-bit architecture. It is primarily where complex calculations have to be performed, or where fast access is needed to data held in memory, or both, that 64-bit offers an advantage," Malhotra said.

Krewell viewed the first Itanium as the developer's version and Itanium 2 as a proving-ground for testing and limited deployment.

"I predict a slow ramp up for Itanium 2 sales. Although the chip is claimed to be one-and-a-half to two times faster than the first chip, it is physically massive and very power-hungry.

"The next chips, Madison and its multi-processor companion Deerfield, will be cooler and have a smaller die size and this is when Itanium will hit its stride," Krewell said.

Who will benefit from 64-bit computing?
  • Scientific researchers who use complex numbers that require the use of floating-point calculations

  • High throughput online transaction processing, where being able to address up to 16Tbytes of memory will allow a database to be stored in fast memory

  • Multimedia applications, such as cinematic digital effects and cartoons, where complex image frames can be stored in memory and rendered more rapidly

  • Computer-aided design and engineering or virtual world generators which require many calculations to be performed and transformed within 3D models

  • Security gateways where many encryption/ decryption actions have to be performed in real time.

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