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Intel’s new quad-core server processors may have been engineered to target high-end, compute-intensive tasks. But taken in combination with last month’s chip price cuts, quad-core-based servers could now be an attractive option for system builders and solution providers of almost any stripe.

The chip maker today extended its multicore-processor lead over rival AMD with the official launch of the new X5365 and L5335 quad-core Xeon processors. The 65nm server chips are primarily aimed at HPC users in media, design and financial services, according to officials in Santa Clara, Calif.

The powerhouse of the pair, the Xeon X5365, is a 3.0 GHz quad-core processor with a front-side bus speed of 1,333 MHz. Despite its muscle, the X5365 fits in a standard 120-watt power envelope. Meanwhile, the low-voltage Xeon L5335 is being positioned as an energy efficiency play.

Consuming just 50 watts, the L5335 still manages a hefty 2.0 GHz clock speed and 1,333 MHz FSB. With energy efficiency at the top of most system builders’ and users’ minds today, Intel has tuned both new Xeons with its proprietary energy-smart technology, to cut idle power consumption by up to half. In fact, Intel’s entire server processor line is being infused with the energy-smart technology, Intel officials said.

The latest additions to the Xeon family come just three weeks after Intel adjusted prices on all 15 SKUs in its 3200 and 5300 quad-core series. In lots of 1,000 or more, the X5365 now occupies the top spot on the menu at $1,172 each, while the L5335s go for $380 each in the same quantities. The shift now puts quad-core chips on par with dual-core chips for affordability and has Intel’s channel officials evangelizing for quad-core in a broad range of server applications.

“This really is quad-core for the masses,” said Todd Garrigues, Intel’s North American channel products marketing manager. “We’ve eliminated the premium for quad core and now there is something for every price point in the server chain.”

Not all partners, however, are ready to see the lower-priced Xeons as a universal fit. “The higher speed quad-cores do not affect the entire spectrum because many people are not limited by the number of cores, but rather by the bandwidth of memory or the wattage of the server,” said David Driggers, chief technology officer and co-founder of Verari Systems, a blade server and storage system builder in San Diego, Calif. “That being said, with the launch of [these] new chips, we also got some lower wattage profiles from other chips and that does affect positively the entire spectrum. Everyone is interested lowering their power requirements from the servers.

“[Still] the main place for the high-performance CPUs will be in traditional HPC verticals where power is not an acute issue, but performance is, oil and gas, EDA, and media and entertainment,” Driggers said.

For those solution providers and enterprises interested in leveraging virtualization, the new Xeon quad-cores also include integrated capabilities that boost virtualization efficiency and enable 64-bit guest OS support. Intel’s onboard virtualization technology also features extensions for improved interrupt handling aimed specifically at 32-bit Microsoft Windows environments.

Garrigues said Intel will add the newest Xeons to the vendor’s demo purchase program, so system builders can get small quantities of the new chips at reduced prices in order to build demonstration systems. Intel also plans to add significant quad-core training content to its 30-city Intel Channel Conference roadshow which kicks off next month.

Support for the new chips already includes some 50 hardware vendors including Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Dell, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, and SGI. The new Xeon quad-cores are available immediately.

“The message is that now quad-core fits in everywhere. It fits into SMB. Every server can be quad-core,” said Garrigues. “For partners talking to their customers, we say ‘don’t wait.’ You can get all of the great performance and features along with solid value.”