Intel is releasing supplies of its Itanium 64-bit chip to early evaluators.
Initially, limited supplies will be sent to preferred customers, which include PC manufacturer Dell and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, as well as the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (Cern) and Wells Fargo Bank.
Itanium will primarily be pitted against Compaq's Alpha chip, which has been available for several years and has a proven track record in high-power servers and supercomputing environments.
Sverre Jarp, project leader in the IT division of Cern, said, "We have been working with Intel since December last year to put Linux on to the system.
"We have also been developing two applications to show off the Itanium chip's power which we will be demonstrating at Intel's European roadshows throughout December."
One of the applications, a particle accelerator simulator, ported to Itanium has been reaching record speeds, says Jarp.
This has been attributed to the floating point performance of the Itanium processor and the efficiency of the Fortran compiler in scheduling commands for processing through the Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing (Epic) feature.
Epic is the speed enhancer that will increase its apparent processing speed above the 800MHz rating of the initial chip release. This will allow businesses to process large amounts of data and SQL instructions.
A further speed enhancement will result from the 64-bit address bus' ability to address large Ram-stored databases, rather than having to use disc operations.
Dell is designing Itanium workstations which will run Microsoft's 64-bit Windows 2000 and a 64-bit version of Linux.
Now that the Itanium chip has finally been cleared for volume release, Intel is turning its attention to the late running replacement for the Xeon range of processors.