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Intel Corp.’s code-named Tukwila processor, which was once promised to arrive in the middle of the decade, is now scheduled to come towards its end: in late 2008. Along with the quad-core Itanium processor the common platform for Xeon and Itanium chips will also become available much later than originally anticipated.

Pat Gelsinger, the chief of Intel’s digital enterprise group said in an interview that integration of the whole Itanium development into Intel and employing the Itanium team of HP allowed the company to use the same circuit design libraries, process technologies and so on for the development of Itanium and Xeon processors. Nevertheless, Mr. Gelsinger admitted that due to re-organization of the development process the company had to postpone the release of certain projects and Montecito – the dual-core Itanium 2 that was due in 2005, but was released only in mid-2006 – was the first one.

“So going forward, the circuit techniques, the power-management technologies, all those sorts of things are much better leveraged. The first realisation of that is Tukwila [quad-core Itanium] in late 2008, the next step in the product family, where we move to common system architecture elements, as well as full alignment on design tools and process,” Mr. Gelsinger said in an interview with ZDNet UK web-site.

Earlier it was anticipated that the quad-core Tukwila will emerge in 2006 or 2007. Even SGI, one of the biggest Itanium customers, was confident back in mid-2005 that in 2007 the world’s largest chipmaker would present its server platform based on the common serial interconnect (CSI) bus that will be compatible with both Itanium and Xeon processors, which would obtain built-in memory controllers. But in late 2005 the company slashed-out the code-named Whitefield processor from the Xeon MP roadmap and changed it for Tigerton.

Intel’s Xeon MP “Tigerton” processor is the company’s first chip for MP machines that is based on the energy efficient Core 2 micro-architecture. The chip was included into the roadmap back in late 2005 to substitute the code-named Whitefield microprocessor just months after the company publicly demonstrated a roadmap at Intel Developer Forum Fall 2005 that showcased Whitefield and Dunnington chips due to arrive in 2007. Intel said that changes in plans were conditioned by an intention to offer higher performance. Now the company plans to offer Xeon MP platform with quad independent bus instead of CSI in 2007.

But even with CSI and Tukwila the Xeon and Itanium platforms will not really become one on the architectural price-point.

 “It’s still a different micro-architecture, a different instruction set, still aiming at a different market segment than the core of our product line. I’m driving for more convergence in Poulson [post-Tukwila Itanium] and beyond,” Mr. Gelsinger said.

But given that infrastructure of the Itanium and Xeon is going to be unified, this should allow system builders to drive Itanium into more mainstream server segment, even though definitely not in the middle of the decade, but, it seems, towards the end of this, or early in the next decade.

“You just get more and more, and some of the differences that we had [between Itanium and Xeon platforms] before weren’t for good reasons, and we’re bringing those together, so I’m pretty happy that this gives us much better leverage for the R&D investments. As you move to common systems architecture it’s much better investment for the customers as well. HP can say: ‘I can do a platform development, so I have a lower-end Xeon platform that can be used to bring Itanium lower in my product line’, so you start to get that not just in our developments, but also in the OEM developments,” Mr.Gelsinger added.


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