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Intel Corp. is refreshing its 64-bit Itanium 2 processor line with six new chips based on the Madison core.

The new processors represent the last single-core Itanium chips that the Santa Clara, Calif., company will roll out. The next step for Itanium is Montecito, which will have two cores on a single processor, Abhi Talwalkar, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Enterprise Platforms Group, said in a news conference Monday.

Click here to read about Intel’s decision to cancel its 4-GHz single-core Pentium 4.

Talwalkar said Itanium is making inroads in the RISC-replacement space, as larger enterprises are looking to bring industry-standard technology into their high-end systems.

“Many of you understand the server market represents an incredibly broad and diverse sort of marketplace,” Talwalkar said. “We believe one single processor architecture shouldn’t be spread across all work loads.

“A very large percentage of the marketplace based on RISC is switching, as more and more end-users looking to open platforms as well as standard hardware see them move to choices … like Itanium 2.”

Talwalkar said he sees a two-horse race in the high-end space, between Itanium and IBM’s Power architecture. Hewlett-Packard Co. is standardizing its entire line of high-end systems on Itanium, phasing out other architectures such as Alpha and PA-RISC. Sun Microsystems Inc. earlier this year broadened its partnership with Fujitsu Ltd., with the two companies jointly developing the SPARC platform going forward.

IBM opened up its Power microprocessor platform so other companies could innovate on top of the architecture. Click here to read more.

Several years ago, Intel said Itanium would become the standard in 64-bit computing. However, with the success of Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s Opteron processor—which can run both 32-bit and 64-bit software—and the introduction of its own Xeons with its EM64T extension technology, which has similar capabilities, Intel now is offering two platforms for 64-bit computing.

Intel is offering three new Itanium 2 MP for systems with four or more processors, including one that runs at 1.6GHz with 9MB of Level 3 cache. The others run at 1.6GHz with 6MB of cache and at 1.5GHz with 4MB.

In addition, the company offers two Itanium 2 chips for dual-processor systems—both running at 1.6GHz, with either a 400MHz or 533MHz front-side bus—and a low-voltage Itanium 2 processor at 1.3 GHz with 3 MB of cache and running at 62 watts. That chip is designed for dense form factors such as blade systems.

The new Itanium 2 processors already have made their mark. A Linux-based supercomputer, named Columbia, being deployed by NASA was built using an Altix system from Silicon Graphics Inc. running 10,240 Itanium 2 systems.

Columbia, which took six months to put together, recently reached a peak performance of 42.7 teraflops, or trillion calculations per second, which is faster than NEC Corp.’s Earth Simulator in Japan, which at almost 36 teraflops has sat atop the list of the most powerful computers for two years.

Click here to read about NEC’s efforts to reclaim its title for the fastest supercomputer.

During the news conference, Talwalkar said Intel is on target to launch Montecito later next year, with volume ramp happening in the first half of 2006. The company already has given OEMs samples of the dual-core processor.

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