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Intel releases dual-core Xeon 'Tulsa' chip for high-end x86 market

Intel today released its new dual-core chip for high-end x86 multiprocessor servers. Earlier this year, it released a dual-core for lower end servers. The flurry of activity this summer, with AMD releasing a dual-core server chip of its own, is a sign of the growing rivalry between Intel and AMD.

Intel Corp. announced its new dual-core Xeon chip for high-end x86 servers today, saying it has twice the performance and three times the performance per watt over earlier Xeon multiprocessor chips.

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Major vendors -- including IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), Dell Inc. and Unisys Corp. -- will incorporate the new chip, which has been code-named "Tulsa," in their systems by the end of the year. The Xeon 7100 chips are designed for four-processor systems and range from $856 for the 2.6 GHz chip with a 4 MB cache to $1,980 for the 3.4 GHz model with a 16 MB cache.

Some of the 40 systems that will include the chip are:

  • Dell's PowerEdge tower 6800 and rack 6850 servers with prices starting at $6,900.
  • HP's tower ML570 and rack DL580 servers with prices starting at about $5,800.
  • IBM's rack System x3850 and tower x3800, and x3950 servers; prices were unavailable.
  • Unisys' ES7000 servers and later, its ClearPath server lines, with prices to be announced when it starts shipping in the fourth quarter.

The announcement follows a flurry of new chips from market leader Intel and its fiercest rival in the server space, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD). Intel already released a line of dual-core chips this summer for lower end x86 servers, and AMD just released a new dual-core chip two weeks ago. Both vendors are working on a quad-core chip as well, with Intel planning on releasing it by the end of this year, ahead of AMD's planned schedule.

The technology of a multicore chip basically allows two or four CPUs to be fit on one stretched piece of silicon.

Jonathan Eunice, founder of Nashua, N.H.-based market research firm Illuminata Inc., said the new chip's performance numbers look good, and he was impressed that Intel was finally coming out and comparing its products with AMD's.

"Intel has been in a getting-its-groove-back mode," he said. "Now they're comparing directly to AMD, and with a good basis. They have very good numbers. They're bringing the game back to AMD."

The new Intel chip is the last model to use the NetBurst architecture, which has drawn criticism for being outdated. But Eunice said the architecture on x86 chips changes so frequently that it's not a serious issue.

"The reality is that these are not mainframes, where you need to know architectural profiles for years to come," he said.

The 65 nm Xeon chip boasts of more than 1.3 billion transistors with the ability of systems to scale to 32 processors. They draw anywhere from 95W for the slower chips in the chip line to 150W for the fastest. Power has become a huge issue in the data center, with some sucking up as much as a large town. So AMD, with its 95W Opteron chips, has tried to make that a main argument in the chip race.

Eunice said that customers buying systems may consider the power that a chip consumes, but it won't be the overriding factor.

"Let's say they have the Intel commitment," he said. "They're not going to change architecture dramatically solely based on the power issue."

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