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Dell demos Itanium 2 server, but keeps lid on details

Dell Computer publicly demonstrated an Itanium 2 server for the first time at Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 launch event in San Francisco yesterday, and said it will release such a system later this year.

The computer manufacturer has expressed support for Intel's Itanium 2 processor in the past, but has been reluctant to share details about its plans for the chip. This demonstration did not mark a change in that strategy, as Dell spokesman Bruce Anderson declined to comment about the server's price, configuration or specific launch date.

It is still unclear whether Dell is waiting for Madison, the next version of the Itanium 2, to launch in the middle of this year before it releases a system using a chip from the Itanium processor family.

Anderson also declined to comment on whether the performance benefits expected from Madison's higher clock speed and larger cache were the reason for Dell's year-long hesitation in deploying an Itanium 2 server.

Itanium 2 is a 64-bit processor launched last July that uses an entirely different instruction set than 64-bit reduced instruction set computing (Risc) processors or 32-bit processors from Intel and AMD. It was developed in conjunction with Hewlett-Packard, which has been the primary backer of Itanium 2. The chip has won praise for its performance, but it requires IT managers to recompile all of their applications for the new instruction set to take advantage of that performance.

Dell and IBM have been reluctant to release servers using the chip. IBM announced this week it would release a server using a competing 64-bit chip, AMD's Opteron.

Dell expects to sell Itanium 2-based servers to the high-performance computing market, Anderson said. Intel released benchmarks yesterday claiming an HP server with 64 Madison processors, Windows Server 2003 and Microsoft's new 64-bit SQL Server database achieved the highest-ever single-system transaction processing score as measured by the TPC-C benchmark for high-performance online transaction-processing computers.

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