Intel boosts cache on Gallatin Xeon Processor MP

Intel has released three new chips for multiprocessor server environments, updating its Xeon line of processors with a larger...

Intel has released three new chips for multiprocessor server environments, updating its Xeon line of processors with a larger level 3 cache and faster clock speeds.

The Xeon Processor MP, formerly called Gallatin, will be used mainly in four-way servers for both middle-tier and back-end applications, said Lisa Graff, director of enterprise processor marketing at Intel.

The new processor is Intel's first Xeon Processor MP built on its .13-micron chip making process. This allowed the company to incorporate a 2Mbyte Level 3 cache on the chip, a 1Mbyte increase over the previous family of Xeon Processor MPs built on a .18-micron process, code-named Foster.

A cache is a pool of memory close to the processor that allows the same instructions to be accessed many times, which is necessary in most processing tasks. It uses static RAM (SRAM), which can be accessed more quickly than dynamic RAM (DRAM), the main memory type used in PCs.

Intel took a step backward when moving from the older Pentium III Xeon to the Foster processors, decreasing the cache from 2Mbytes to 1Mbyte, said Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata.

As it added new components from its Netburst architecture to the Foster Xeon chip, the company was not left with enough room on the die to include the larger cache. Now that Intel is making the Gallatin Xeon chip on its smaller .13 micron process, it can add that cache back in, said Haff.

"Having these larger caches provides a significant performance jump" over older Foster Xeons, he added.

The new Xeon Processor MPs will be available in three clock speeds, 2GHz, 1.9GHz, and 1.5GHz. The 2GHz chip will be the only one to include the 2Mbyte cache, and will be priced at $3,692 (£2,541).

The other two chips will feature a 1Mbyte cache, and be priced at $1,980 and $1,177, respectively. All prices are for 1,000-unit quantities.

"Even though the [2.0GHz] processor is significantly more expensive, you'll get value from the larger cache," Haff said.

The chip includes hyperthreading, which allows a processor to queue up one software thread while processing a different one. Hyperthreading can be found on older versions of the Xeon Processor MP and Intel is bringing the technology to its desktop processors with the upcoming release of its 3.06GHz Pentium 4 processor.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) is expected to release a four-way server containing the chip now that Gallatin has made it to the market. The ProLiant ML570 is considered a high-end machine within HP's ProLiant line. Other systems vendors will soon release servers using the technology, according to Graff.

Intel plans to release its new Xeon processors for small servers and workstations later this quarter, as part of a company-wide trend to accelerate the introduction of its technology.

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