SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Answering the competitive threat from Advanced Micro Devices, Intel Corp. officially rolls out Monday (June 28) its first X86 processor capable of handling 64-bit data.
Aimed at single- and dual-processor workstations, the CPU code named Nocona is Intel's first Xeon chip to use its 90-nm process technology, incorporate new power saving technology and come with a chip set supporting PCI Express.
Intel said it will follow up the launch with a multiprocessing-capable version of the 64-bit Xeon early next year. It will ship a server chip set supporting PCI Express in August.
Although many new technologies are bundled into the new CPU and chip set, the 64-bit capability is the most significant because AMD has had for several months a full line of 64-bit capable X86 CPUs.
"By bringing out 64-bit CPUs compatible with the AMD approach, Intel has endorsed AMD's design. That's the good news for AMD," said Nathan Brookwood, a market watcher with Insight64 (Saratoga, Calif.).
"The bad news for AMD is that until today if you wanted a 64-bit X86 with good 32-bit performance you had to go to AMD. Now you have a choice," Brookwood added.
OEMs have not had much opportunity to make hay with AMD's innovation to date. Although IBM has been marketing systems with the AMD 64-bit chips for some time, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems are just ramping up their AMD products. However, Intel has yet to ship a server-ready 64-bit CPU, Brookwood noted.
"By the middle of next year, virtually all our server products will be 64-bit capable," said Phil Brace, a marketing director in Intel's server group. "I would expect to see a [multiprocessing] product refresh early next year," he added.
Linux currently supports 64-bit X86 processors. However a version of Microsoft Windows for 64-bit systems is still in a beta release.
Intel made advances on several other fronts with the new products. Perhaps the most significant is in power management, an increasingly difficult design issue for server makers.
The new Xeon is the first to use a version of the so-called SpeedStep technology used in Intel's notebook processors. Using this technology, an operating system can scale back the frequency and voltage of the processor based on the application workload. That could reduce average power consumption by 28 percent, Brace said.
In addition, the ET7525 workstation chip set, called Tumwater, supports 400 MHz DDR-2 which reduces memory power consumption by as much as 40 percent from the previous 333 MHz DDR, Intel claimed.
The new Xeon has a peak power consumption of 103 W. Brookwood said average system-level power consumption on workstations using the chip could be as low as 150 W, down about 10 percent from previous generation Xeon workstations.
The ET7525 is Intel's first Xeon chip set supporting the new serial PCI Express interconnect. It supports a 16x link for graphics and an 8x link for I/O. The Lindenhurst chip set for servers coming in August will not support 16x graphics. However it will supply up to four 8x links for I/O and fan out.
The new Xeon processors have an 800-MHz front side bus, up from 533 MHz, run at frequencies from 2.8 to 3.6 GHz and cost from $209 to $851 in thousands. The workstation chip set costs $100 in thousands.