Intel coy over multicore processor plans

Intel's much-anticipated multicore processor, codenamed Tanglewood, will contain eight processor cores when it ships, according...

Intel's much-anticipated multicore processor, codenamed Tanglewood, will contain eight processor cores when it ships, according to sources.

The processor is expected to ship in 2006, a year after Intel's first dual-core Itanium, codenamed Montecito. It will be followed by a 16-core processor.

Intel's dual-core processors are being designed by a group of former Alpha processor developers who were transferred to Intel as part of a 2001 agreement where hundreds of developers moved to intel from Compaq.

These chips will be based on Intel's 90-nanometer fabrication process and will use the Vanderpool partitioning technology Intel announced yesterday

Intel has been reluctant to reveal many details about Tanglewood. To date, the company has confirmed only that the processor exists, that it will contain more than two processor cores and that it is expected to have more than seven times the performance of Intel's Madison Itanium processors.

Mike Fister, the manager of Intel's Enterprise Products Group, declined to give specifics on Tanglewood's processor cores.  "I'm not going to tell you how many more than two. It's a lot more than two," he said.

Intel has promoted Itanium as an alternative to Risc (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) processors such as Sun Microsystems' UltraSparc and IBM's Power chips, but the processor has yet to catch on outside the realm of high-performance computing (HPC), said Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff. "Intel's not even really pretending it's being used outside of the HPC space at this point," he added.

Wednesday's keynote, which featured videotaped testimony from HPC Itanium users at Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, did little to dispel that impression.

Industry partners are continuing to support Itanium, which will have 700 "production-ready" applications ported to it by the end of the year.

Intel is readying an Itanium-based blade server, which is planned as the third addition to its Intel Server Compute Blade line. He showed the first system in this line, the dual Xeon processor SBXL52,  and promised that a four-way Xeon system would follow "in another few months or so".

Intel expects to sign up more than 15 manufacturers and systems integrators to sell its blade systems by the end of the year. So far it has signed up five companies, including Bull, Ciara Technologies and Promicro Systems.

Fister also unveiled a software framework designed to make it easier for system suppliers to develop and port BIOS (Basic Input Output System) components. Called the Intel Platform Innovation Framework for Extensible Firmware Interface, the technology will be handed over to a special interest group that will manage its development some time in the next quarter.

The framework, which is expected to take four to five years before it is widely adopted, will speed up driver development for Intel systems because it uses the C programming language.

Robert McMillan writes for IDG News Service

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