The Itanium 2 - long known by its McKinley code-name - is expected to show better overall performance and come with a lower price-tag than the first Itanium processors released last year. Itanium 2 should start appearing in servers and workstations by midyear with vendors such as Dell Computer, IBM and Hewlett-Packard expected to deliver hardware at that time.
The company has also announced that it will resume construction at its manufacturing facility in Leixlip, County Kildare, Ireland. The facility will produce semiconductor components on 300mm wafers, using 90 nanometer process technology. Intel halted construction on the plant last year due to a cash crunch caused by a slowdown in IT spending. The facility should be completed by 2004 and will employ 1,000 employees.
High-end 64-bit processors can handle twice as many bits of information per clock cycle as their 32-bit counterparts, making them well suited for data-intensive applications such as database management or computer-aided design (CAD).
While Intel has dominated the market for 32-bit processors, it failed to make much headway against 64-bit chips from Sun Microsystems and IBM with the first iteration of its Itanium line. Sun, IBM and HP have produced 64-bit chips for years and dominated the high-end server market with these products.
In addition, Intel changed its architecture with the Itanium line, which will force software makers to recompile their 32-bit code in order to run on the Itanium servers. Intel and partners such as Microsoft and HP are spending millions to try and make sure enough software is ported to the Itanium platform.
Intel, however, claims its large customer base will help the company use basic laws of supply and demand to push down the price of 64-bit servers. With the price of Itanium chips still quite high and server sales low, analysts do not expect this price transition to happen for some time.