P4 to get Virtualisation Tech before dual-cores do

No Vanderpool for Smithfield

IDF Spring 05 Intel's dual-core desktop chip 'Smithfield', or Pentium D, as we should now get used to calling it, will not offer Intel's Virtualisation Technology (VT), a company source told us after we'd speculated that it might.

Why did we say VT might make it into the D? Intel itself said in January this year that it "plans to offer VT in future desktop processor and chipset products in 2005". And since the D is Intel's big desktop launch of 2005, surely it must be the chip that brings VT to the desktop?

Not so, apparently. Alas, our source could not or would not say which desktop processor will introduce VT, but we can reveal it's going to be a Pentium 4 chip.

Enter our second Intel source in this story, one Patrick Gelsinger, senior VP and general manager of the Digital Enterprise Group. Speaking publicly yesterday, Gelsinger noted that the company's upcoming 'Lyndon' platform for corporate desktop PCs will feature VT.

Lyndon, he said, will support both the P4 and the PD through its 945G chipsets and variants of it, but since Smithfield lacks VT support, only when you plug a P4 into Lyndon do you get to use all that clever virtualisation stuff.

It makes sense, given the target market. Intel is pitching Lyndon at enterprise IT departments using the platform's Active Management Technology (AMT), which leverages VT to keep the mangement code away from the user's operating environment. And the D is aimed more at home PCs than office ones.

Currently, the P4 5xx and 6xx desktop chips don't support VT. However, updated versions of the 5xx family are expected to ship next quarter, according to the most recent round of Intel internal roadmaps. The updated 5xx chips are expected to gain Intel's 64-bit addressing system, EM64T, but we wonder if they might get VT too. Q2 is also expected to see the launch of the 3.8GHz P4 670.

Certainly the roadmaps don't indicate further P4 launches in 2005. Since Intel is planning to launch Lyndon's successor, 'Averill', in late 2005/early 2006, it will have to get its skates on if it intends to ship VT-enabled P4s later in the year, after D's debut. As we say, there's no such launch on the roadmap, although that may now have changed.

We can say that the P4 will get VT before the PD does, but the PD's chipset has the capacity to deliver the feature should Intel decide to turn it on in the D. Both the D and the P4 are based on the Prescott core, so it's likely that if the P4 has VT, then so will the D - only disabled. Again, that's not surprising, perhaps, given the D's orientation toward the home PC market, where VT is less relevant. ®

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