Intel launched its first dual-core, hyper-threaded Xeon processor offering Monday, three months ahead of its original release date.
The world's largest chip maker, Intel intended to release the first generation of its long-awaited, dual-core products in early 2006, but pressure from rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and its dual-core Opteron chip, launched in late April, forced Intel to get its dual-core Xeon chip to the market quicker.
Multi-core processors, which industry analysts and vendors alike said are the major trend in the chip space, use an integrated circuit to which two or more processors have been attached for enhanced performance, reduced power consumption and more efficient simultaneous processing of multiple tasks. A dual-core setup is somewhat comparable to having multiple, separate processors installed in the same computer, but because the two processors are actually plugged into the same socket, the connection between them is faster.
The new 64-bit, dual-core Xeon processor, which features four cores and eight threads per platform, runs at 2.8 GHz with an 800 MHz system bus and 2 MB of Level 2 cache per core. It will use the Intel E7520 chip set.
Intel also said Monday it plans to deliver three more platforms to round out its initial dual-core server and workstation portfolio. It said it will ship dual-core Intel Itanium processors by the end of 2005.
In a press conference broadcast over the Web, Intel said the new dual-core Intel Xeon processors are expected to help improve the performance of current dual processor, 64-bit servers by up to 50%.
According to Kirk Skaugen, general manager of Intel's Server Platforms Group, the integration of Xeon dual-core technology into data centers will improve server consolidation, accelerate the adoption of virtualization and increase the performance per watt ratio by 350% by the end of 2006.
In response to charges that its dual-core chips will use excessive amounts of power, Intel has touted its demand-based switching technology, which Intel said lowers the voltage in underutilized servers and can help increase box usage from 15% to 40%. For every 500 servers in a data center, Intel said demand-based switching can save $100,000 in energy costs over current models.
"We're committed to a strong roadmap … this is just the beginning," Skaugen said. "The availability of our first dual-core Intel Xeon processor server platforms accelerates the delivery of Intel's aggressive multi-core server roadmap, giving CIOs [chief information officers] and IT managers innovative new technologies and capabilities to help grow and transform their business."
Server platforms based on the new dual-core Intel Xeon processor are available today. The forthcoming dual-core Intel Xeon processor 7000 sequence for multi-processor servers, codenamed Paxville, is expected to be available by mid-December.
Skaugen danced around the issue of AMD's aggressive marketing push around its own dual-core offerings, which have included repeated public boasts that Intel's dual-core chip will perform poorly when put head-to-head against its dual-core Opteron chips. Skaugen said only that "we're confident that were competitive. Q1 and Q2  look very promising."
AMD executive vice president Henri Richard, in an e-mail response to Intel's announcement, questioned Intel's new chip's ability to provide an acceptable performance-per-watt ratio and once again reiterated AMD's desire to hold a dual-core "duel."
"It's clear the market is forcing Intel to respond to AMD and Intel is betting its success on another stopgap solution. Unfortunately, Intel is clouding the enterprise market with solutions that run hotter and offer minimal performance gains. We believe customers will see through this," Richard said.
The impending dual-core Intel Xeon processor 7000 sequence for multi-processor servers is expected to run at speeds up to 3.0 GHz and will include a new chip set, the Intel E8501, to support an 800 MHz system bus and also include support for the existing Intel E8500 chip set. These server platforms, which will be targeted at mid-tier enterprise applications such as database, financial services and supply chain management, will also include a dual, independent system bus, DDR2 Memory, PCI Express, memory RAID and I/O technologies.
Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Luke Meredith, News Writer