SAN JOSE, Calif. – Hewlett-Packard rolled out five new server designs based on Intel’s Itanium 9500 processor also known as Poulson. HP said the designs could as much as triple performance using the new 32-nm chips that sport eight dual-threaded cores with up to 32 Mbytes cache and run at data rates up to 2.5 GHz.
The roll out gives much needed umph to the embattled the Itanium architecture. Intel and HP co-developed the Itanium microprocessor, initially as a replacement for the x86, but the chip never gained broad traction.
"We really did do a brand new microarchitecture," said Rory McInerney, Intel's vice president and general manager of server development. "We went into the core of the CPU, and we built it for longevity."
McInerney, speaking at a San Francisco news conference, said the device has twice the number of cores (eight) of the earlier Itanium 9300 and "maxed out" instruction width, executing, for the first time, a 12-wide bundle of instructions in the 9500.
With the 40 percent improvement in frequency to 2.53 GHz, Intel engineers also reduced power consumption by 8 percent overall, and 80 percent in the core when idle.
Designers also enabled some thread-level parallelism in the execution portion of the device, which has traditionally been in-order (where the machine's front end has been out-of-order).
"If a certain instruction stream stalls out...or is waiting for some memory reply, then we're actually able to doing a level of multi-threading in the execution portion of the machine," McInerney said.
Itanium is only used in generally high-end servers, and HP is one of the few companies to make them. Intel will reportedly continue to make Itanium chips at least through 2017 with a next-generation called Kittson in the works for 2014.
Intel's goal with Kittson is to be able to drop new Itanium cores into an SoC that alternatively could use x86 cores to create a Xeon server CPU, said Nathan Brookwood, principal of market watcher Insight64 (Saratoga, Calif.). "If Intel can achieve that they could have a single motherboard for both plaforms and it will make Itanium more sustainable fo9r Intel," said Brookwood.
Keeping Itanium going is an issue because few system makers use the chip. "I dont think there is anybody else making any big strategic bets on Itanium, HP is the only one with a big commitment," Brookwood said.
In a competitive move, Oracle--which uses x86 ad Sparc CPUs--said in 2011 it would suspend support in its database software for Itanium. However after Oracle lost a court case with HP, Oracle resumed plans to support Itanium.
It's been a long road to market for the latest version of Itanium. Intel first detailed the processor at an industry conference in February 2011.
The new HP designs include upgrade boards for HP’s Superdome 2, its high-end server. The new CPUs double the number of cores on previous Superdome versions that used 16 or 32 Itanium 9300 CPUs—aka Tukwilla--supporting PCI Express Gen 2 and 10 Gbit/second Ethernet.
HP also rolled out three new Itanium 9500 server boards for its existing BladeSystem c-Class chassis as well as a low-end Itanium 9500 server for branch offices. The BladeSystem boards support two, four and eight CPUs. Overall, HP claimed the new systems process transactions up to three times faster and use 21 percent less energy.
The new HP systems, including the Superdome 2 server boards, will be available worldwide beginning in December at a starting price of $6,490 per board.