Intel is to align its Xeon and Itanium chipsets to allow vendors to build servers and workstations that can take either processor family by 2007.
Speaking at last week's ClusterWorld event, Intel Software and Solutions Group executive David Kuck said the chip giant will create a "common platform so that Itanium and Xeon processors are interchangeable at a socket level".
Today, Xeon MP processors are plugged into mPGA603 sockets, while Itanium 2 chips go into mPGA700 sockets.
The company's plan is to have such a 'common platform' in place by 2007, a spokesman said, according to InfoWorld.
The reasoning behind the move is an attempt to cut costs, primarily of complete Itanium-based systems. Since Intel is pitching Itanium as an alternative to high-end Unix iron, the goal is not so much to allow vendors room to compete more effectively on price, but to make it cheaper for them to offer Itanium systems and thus encourage them to do so. Buyers of big iron tend to be less price-sensitive that purchasers of low-end servers, but hardware vendors are always keen to shave what they can off costs.
Intel's move primarily favours single and dual-processor rigs, which of all Itanium systems reach down the furthest toward Xeon territory. Just as Xeon territory is expanding upwards, of course, courtesy of Intel's AMD64-like 64-bit x86 extensions - as indeed is AMD's Opteron line. Reducing the cost of Itanium systems may help reduce the number of sales cannibalised by adding 64-bit technology to Xeon. ®