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Intel plans to essentially offer two cores for free when it begins rolling out quad-core Xeon 5300 server processors in November.

By offering quad-core chips, which contain four processor cores each, for roughly the same price as two-core versions, Intel expects its latest semiconductors will rapidly proliferate in the server space, company executives said here at the Intel Developer Forum on Sept. 26.

Intel executives said they were confident in the new quad-core Xeon chips’ design and capabilities. But in order to speed their introduction, the chip maker will tout the chips’ performance—Xeon 5300 chips will offer as much as a 50 percent increase in performance versus today’s dual-core Xeon 5100s—along with their ability to drop into existing server platforms and their capability to match current power consumption levels, Intel executives said.

Intel will “ship hundreds of thousands of these [quad-core] units before the end of the year. We’ll ship over a million units … before the competition delivers even a unit,” said Pat Gelsinger, general manager of Intel’s Digital Enterprise Group, during a Sept. 26 IDF keynote address.

Intel will begin delivering its Xeon 5300 chips, whose initial speeds will reach 2.66GHz, starting in November. However, it will not exact a price premium for them, said Kirk Skaugen, general manager of Intel’s Server Platforms Group, in an interview at IDF. He added that Intel believes that the chips account for about 40 percent of its server processor shipments over time.

Intel’s first Xeon 5300 chips will fit into an 80-watt power envelope—the same as dual-core Xeon 5100—while Intel also will offer a 120-watt performance version of the chip. Xeon 5300s will come with either a 1,066MHz or 1,333MHz front-side bus, which shuttles data to and from the chips, Skaugen said.

During the first quarter of 2007, Intel will add a 50-watt quad-core Xeon 5300 chip for low-power applications.

Still, Intel had to compromise to bring out the Xeon 5300, also known by the code name Clovertown, quickly. The company will create the quad chips by combining a pair of dual-core Woodcrest or Xeon 5100 chips using special packaging. By lowering the clock speed slightly, which cuts down on power consumption and heat production, the chip maker can fit the two dual-core processors into one package.

The approach “is focused on delivering a result in a timely way—timely is giving you a computer that you can use,” said Steve Smith, director of desktop operations at Intel, at IDF.

However, aside from speedier delivery, Smith said there were several additional advantages to the quad-core chip packaging approach, including lower manufacturing costs.

Combining two dual-core chips in a package gives Intel higher manufacturing yields than if the chip maker were to deliver a monolithic quad core, which incorporates four cores in one chip, Smith said.

Click here to read more about Intel’s upcoming quad-core chips.

That’s because larger chips are more difficult to manufacture without defects, which hurts manufacturing yields and drives up costs, he said.

Combining a pair of smaller, dual-core chips allows Intel to get 20 percent more quad-core chips per wafer—the 12-inch silicon disk that is the base of chip production—and cut costs 10 percent, versus a monolithic chip, using its current 65-nanometer manufacturing technology, Smith said.

Not everyone, however, believes in Intel’s quad-core approach.

Patrick Patla, director for Advanced Micro Devices’ Server and Workstation Business, in Austin, Texas, painted “Barcelona,” AMD’s first quad-core server chip, due in the first half of 2007, as more efficient in the way it uses on-board memory—called cache—and thus capable of higher performance. He called Intel’s quad-core server chip a “Franken-quad,” comparing it to the monster made from recycled body parts.

“There are no efficiencies brought by this solution—putting multiple processors on one bus,” Patla said. “Our native design actually takes latency out.”

But Intel said it already has proved its approach by shipping millions of dual-core Pentium D 800 series desktop processors, which combine two single-core Pentium 4s.

Intel will use the packaging method widely in future chips as well. It will release quad-core desktop chips, including a Core 2 Extreme that’s also due in November, a Core 2 Quad chip for mainstream desktops in the first quarter of 2007 and “Tigerton,” a quad-core chip designed for multiprocessor or four-socket servers sometime later in 2007.

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