While the chips weren't quite up to snuff, Intel Corp. and its partners demonstrated functional Itanium silicon at LinuxWorld Tuesday.
At least three companies showed off Itanium systems on the show floor: Intel (stock: INTC), with help from VA Linux Systems Inc. (stock: LNUX) and Mission Critical Linux, Silicon Graphics Inc. (stock: SGI), and NEC Corp. (stock: NIPNY). NEC, in fact, demonstrated a 16-way Itanium way server using its custom-designed Azusa chipset.
However, the Itanium chips did not perform anywhere near the promised speed of 800 MHz. Intel, Santa Clara, Calif., recently pushed back the Itanium's release date three months or so until the fourth quarter, when pilot development systems are scheduled to be released.
Instead, Intel's LinuxWorld efforts included demonstrating 500-MHz, preproduction Itanium chips in its own booth and with SGI, which also had a system containing a 733-MHz Itanium chip, an SGI spokesman said. NEC representatives declined to comment on the clock speed of the chips in their Azusa prototype, but indicated that the clock speed was well under the expected 800-MHz threshold.
"As we got closer to product time, the task of fixing and validating the silicon ... pushed us out a quarter," said Paul Otellini, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel architecture group, last month in an earnings-related conference call with analysts. "We learned a lot in the process."
The demonstrations will also be repeated at next week's Intel Developer Forum, where Intel will have an uninterrupted chance to expound on the direction of its own chips.
On Tuesday, rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (stock: AMD) announced plans to try and win developers to its 64-bit processor, Hammer, through a free software simulation that AMD, Sunnyvale, Calif., will distribute at the end of September, as well as a complementary website, http://www.x86-64.org.
Intel, NEC, and SGI all showed a basic Linux kernel running on top of the Itanium chip. Intel paired two two-way Itanium systems together, streaming some basic MP3 files off of a combination of four VA Linux 1000 and four VA Linux 2230 load-balancing boxes. SGI also showed six two-way Itanium based systems, arranged in a cluster, running an OpenGL-enabled Linux application tracking the gravitational pull and physical effects of the collision of a binary star, using double-precision floating-point mathematics to calculate the effects, a company spokesman said.
NEC showed perhaps the most polished use of an Itanium system, combining four CPU cells across a crossbar switch. Each cell contained four Itanium CPUs.
The demonstration calculated a Mandelbrot set derivation using 15 CPUs. The other CPU was also used to demonstrate the Mandelbrot calculation, for comparison's sake. NEC used a Linux 2.4.0 kernel, distributed by TurboLinux Inc., using additional patches for the Itanium and Azusa chipset. The Asuza box will allow a maximum of 128 Gbytes of memory and 128 PCI slots, the company said.