Intel set for server chip blitz

From Tukwila to Nehalem-EX

High-end server chip rivals Intel and IBM have picked the same day - next Monday, February 8 - to launch their respective quad-core "Tukwila" Itanium and eight-core Power7 processors.

As El Reg previously reported, IBM is getting ready to launch the initial Power7-based servers in New York next Monday. The Power7 chips will have up to eight cores and Big Blue is promising to offer from two to three times the performance of systems its dual-core Power6 and Power6+ chips with the Power7.

IBM is expected to roll out some of the updated Power Systems line on Monday, with a rolling thunder gradual release through 2010. The word on the street was that the initial Power7 machines were expected in May, but IBM seems to have moved them up to better compete for news and dollars with impending chips from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

According to sources at Intel, the chip maker was unaware that IBM was planning its Power7 launch for February 8 when it scheduled the Tukwila launch in San Francisco for the same day. At the event, Kirk Skaugen, vice president of Intel's Architecture Group, will be joined by Martin Fink, general manager for Business Critical Servers within Hewlett-Packard's Enterprise Storage, Servers, and Networking Group. HP, of course, accounts for the vast majority of sales and shipments of Itanium-based systems and is technically a co-development partner for the Itanium design.

Here's the statement put out by Intel:

"Tukwila," the code name for the newest Itanium processor, has begun revenue shipments. The most advanced Itanium processor yet, "Tukwila" more than doubles the performance of its predecessor and adds a range of new scalability, reliability, and virtualization features. Eighty percent of the Global 100 companies already use Itanium-based servers. The launch of this Itanium mission-critical processor is part of a major push Intel is making into the server processor arena, with several announcements slated for the first half of the year.

As 2010 was winding up, Intel sources told El Reg that the Tukwila Itaniums would have a formal launch in the first quarter of 2009. The much-delayed Tukwilas were expected by the end of 2008, but in February 2009 Intel copped to the fact that they had been delayed to mid-2009. And in May last year, these chips - presumably to be called the Itanium 9500s - were pushed out again to the first quarter of 2010. This was done when, during final chip testing, Intel identified a means to optimize the performance on high-end systems by tweaking the chip in some manner that was never really explained.

Not to drag it all up again, but the original Tukwilas were due in late 2006 or early 2007 - and then the memory controllers and other features were changed. The Tukwila processor socket was also made compatible with future "Kittson" and "Poulson" Itaniums rather than with the "Montecito" Itanium 9000s and "Montvale" Itanium 9100s, pushing the chips out to 2008.

The Tukwila chip will weigh in at nearly 2 billion transistors and sports 30 MB of on-chip L3 cache memory. Clock speeds for the chip are expected to range from 1.2 GHz to 2 GHz, with top-end parts burning at 170 watts. Generally speaking, Intel is promising about twice the performance of current dual-core Itanium 9100s, which themselves are a bit of a disappointment in terms of clock speeds with their top-end 1.66 GHz clock speeds compared to the 2 GHz and higher clocks that Intel was whispering about before the Montecito and kicker Montvale chips came to market.

By the way, the official word from Intel as 2009 wound down was that the eight-core "Becton" Nehalem-EX chips - which are aimed at midrange and high-end servers like the Tukwilas and which use the same "Boxboro" chipset (but different processor sockets) - went into production at the end of last year. This was as planned, according to Intel. The company said that parts were shipped to OEMs and that it was "seeding end users." The timing of the Nehalem-EX chip launch remains a bit vague, and it's scheduled for some time during the first half of this year.

As El Reg told you last week, Intel will also next week give out some of the details about the power management features of its "Westmere-EP" processors for two-socket servers and workstations at the International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco.

The Westmere-EP chips, which are tweaked versions of the current "Nehalem-EP" Xeon 5500s that have saved Intel's financial cookies and which will no doubt be called the Xeon 5600s, are expected to be launched at the end of March. Intel has not confirmed this date, but motherboard maker Super Micro has. The Westmeres are expected to have six cores, rather than the four in the Nehalems.

Intel Labs will also present a paper at ISSCC on a research chip that crams 48 32-bit x86 cores in a 2D mesh on a single chip. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Ubuntu 21.10: Plan to do yourself an Indri? Here's what's inside... including a bit of GNOME schooling

    Plus: Rounded corners make GNOME 40 look like Windows 11

    Review Canonical has released Ubuntu 21.10, or "Impish Indri" as this one is known. This is the last major version before next year's long-term support release of Ubuntu 22.04, and serves as a good preview of some of the changes coming for those who stick with LTS releases.

    If you prefer to run the latest and greatest, 21.10 is a solid release with a new kernel, a major GNOME update, and some theming changes. As a short-term support release, Ubuntu 21.10 will be supported for nine months, which covers you until July 2022, by which point 22.04 will already be out.

    Continue reading
  • Heart FM's borkfast show – a fine way to start your day

    Jamie and Amanda have a new co-presenter to contend with

    There can be few things worse than Microsoft Windows elbowing itself into a presenting partnership, as seen in this digital signage for the Heart breakfast show.

    For those unfamiliar with the station, Heart is a UK national broadcaster with Global as its parent. It currently consists of a dozen or so regional stations with a number of shows broadcast nationally. Including a perky breakfast show featuring former Live and Kicking presenter Jamie Theakston and Britain's Got Talent judge, Amanda Holden.

    Continue reading
  • Think your phone is snooping on you? Hold my beer, says basic physics

    Information wants to be free, and it's making its escape

    Opinion Forget the Singularity. That modern myth where AI learns to improve itself in an exponential feedback loop towards evil godhood ain't gonna happen. Spacetime itself sets hard limits on how fast information can be gathered and processed, no matter how clever you are.

    What we should expect in its place is the robot panopticon, a relatively dumb system with near-divine powers of perception. That's something the same laws of physics that prevent the Godbot practically guarantee. The latest foreshadowing of mankind's fate? The Ethernet cable.

    By itself, last week's story of a researcher picking up and decoding the unintended wireless emissions of an Ethernet cable is mildly interesting. It was the most labby of lab-based demos, with every possible tweak applied to maximise the chances of it working. It's not even as if it's a new discovery. The effect and its security implications have been known since the Second World War, when Bell Labs demonstrated to the US Army that a wired teleprinter encoder called SIGTOT was vulnerable. It could be monitored at a distance and the unencrypted messages extracted by the radio pulses it gave off in operation.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021