Dual-core desktops still 18 months off

Montecito, the first dual-core processor based on Intel's Itanium 2 architecture, will not begin shipping in volume until 2006.

Montecito, the first dual-core processor based on Intel's Itanium 2 architecture, will not begin shipping in volume until 2006.

Intel had said that Montecito, a follow-up to its current generation of Itanium 2 processors, would ship in 2005, but this is the first announcement of when the chip will be generally available from server manufacturers.

Intel vice-president Abhi Talwalkar said computer makers would begin delivering Montecito systems for "end-user trials" by the fourth quarter of 2005.

Intel demonstrated an early implementation of the processor, which will use a new 90-nanometer manufacturing process technology, in September. The company has now begun the long, arduous process of testing and refining production of the chip.

"We're making great progress here on the silicon itself;" said Talwalkar. "In fact, we've sampled CPUs to OEMs who are into system-level testing as we speak."

Intel declined to say when it expected to ship Tukwila, Montecito's multicore successor. But if Montecito systems are not to ship in volume for more than a year it probably means Tukwila won't arrive until 2007.

The transition to Montecito will be a major technology update for Intel. The chip has 1.7 billion transistors, two cores and 24Mbytes of Level 3 cache, representing a huge increase in compute density.

Intel has also been about a quarter behind analyst expectations with an update of its single-core Itanium 2 processor. New versions of the single-core chips will come in six new configurations, including a 1.6GHz processor with 9Mbytes of Level 3 cache. There will also be a 1.6GHz chip with 6Mbytes of cache, a 1.5GHz chip with 4Mbytes of cache, and new processors for dual-processor and low-voltage systems.

Nasa engineers have already been using the 9Mbyte cache processor, which they say has given them a 30-40% improvement over previous Itanium 2 chips in the scientific applications they are running. Talwalkar said the new chip should deliver a 15% boost for users doing database transaction processing.

Robert McMillan writes for IDG News Service

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