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Intel Itanium around for the long haul

Kittson is the code name for the latest chip in Intel's Itanium processor roadmap, which has now stretched into the next decade and also includes Montvale, Tukwila and Poulson.

Intel Corp. has announced that development of its Itanium 2 processor will last well into the next decade.

More on Intel Itanium, Power and UltraSparc:
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Sun chips away at UltraSparc server line

The world's largest chipmaker announced a new line in its series of future Itanium processors. Code-named Kittson, the chip will most likely be released after 2010, although company officials wouldn't detail a timeline. Few other details were provided about the chip other than it will "deliver increased parallelism, increased cores and increased threads," according to Diane Bryant, vice president and general manager of Intel's server platforms group.

"The message we're trying to convey is that we have a very long roadmap," she said. "The fact of Kittson being in definition means the architects are thinking about the next generation."

Intel also announced that an Itanium 2 processor expected by the end of the decade, code-named Poulson, would have a 32-nanometer design. Its predecessor, code-named Tukwila, and expected by the end of next year, will have a 65-nanometer design. Thus, with Poulson, Intel is skipping the 45-nanometer design, a testament to the direction Intel is taking Itanium.

Bryant also spoke in some detail about Tukwila, the quad-core Itanium processor due by the end of next year. Intel is predicting it will have twice the level of performance as the Montvale. It will have eight threads (two for each core), larger on-die caches and an integrated memory controller. Another new feature in Tukwila will be double device data correction, which she said will allow systems to better fix memory errors.

Here's a rundown and description of the Itanium roadmap as spelled out by Intel:

  • Montvale, a revision of the current dual-core 90-nanometer Montecito with higher clock speeds and larger caches, is expected in the second half of this year.
  • Tukwila, the first quad-core Itanium, will feature a 65nanometer design and is expected by the end of 2008.
  • Poulson will come out after 2008, have more than four cores, be compatible with Tukwila platforms, and according to Intel, be designed with a new microarchitecture that allows for better parallel processing.
  • Kittson will likely come out after 2010, although Intel wouldn't disclose a timeline or details about what the chip will look like.

The Intel Itanium is based on the Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing architecture, better known as EPIC. Intel and Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) jointly developed the design for EPIC chips in the early 1990s, as HP sought to replace its servers based on the Reduced Instruction Set Computer architecture, aka RISC. Itanium's competitors, IBM's Power and Sun Microsystems Inc.'s UltraSparc chips, are based on the RISC architecture.

IBM announced its dual-core Power6 processor last month, and Sun's next UltraSparc processor is expected to have 16 cores and debut next year.

About a dozen server vendors, including Unisys, Fujitsu and NEC Corp., sell Itanium-based systems, but by far the biggest Itanium server vendor is HP with its Integrity servers.

Revenue around Itanium isn't near as high as RISC-based Unix systems or x86 systems, but it is growing. IDC has reported double-digit growth for Itanium-based systems for the past several quarters and predicts its revenue will grow to $6.6 billion in 2009 compared to just $1.4 billion in 2004.

Intel often compares its Itanium line against Power and UltraSparc. It said that in the first quarter of this year, Itanium revenue was 54% of UltraSparc's and 41% of Power's. In 2002, Itanium revenue was just 1% of both UltraSparc and Power revenue, and by 2006, it had grown to 40% and 26%, respectively.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer.

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