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Intel Corp. has announced that it would improve micro-architecture of its IA64 microprocessors in the coming years. The details are unclear, but it looks like Intel is not going to drive Itanium down to the mainstream market, as the incoming IA64 chips will have even more features designed specifically for high-end servers.

Intel code-named Poulson processor, which will also belong to Itanium family or its successors, has been inside Intel’s roadmap for many years. However, until lately no details concerning it were available. At a recent press conference Intel finally released some details concerning the new product. Apparently, the chip will be made using 32nm process technology, will share a common chipset or platform with Intel Xeon processor and will have a new micro-architecture, while still being compatible with previous-generation Itanium and Itanium 2 processors.

“I consider it as big an architectural change as when the first Itanium 2 came out. We’re not trying to make major changes that will mess up the software. […] It’ll be completely compatible with prior Itanium,” said Rory McInerney, a director of engineering for Intel, reports TechWeb web-site.

Intel executives declined to provide details on Poulson, but did say it would have more than four cores per processor and more threads per core. Considering that the current Itanium 2 processors with two processing engines can execute up to two threads per core thanks to Intel Hyper-Threading technology, the new code-named Intel Poulson product will be able to execute more than that (e.g. 4 threads per core).

Intel also confirmed that Intel Itanium 2 quad-core processor code-named Tukwila will emerge in 2008 and that it would be made using 65nm process technology. The new chip will have onboard memory controller and will support so-called common serial interconnect (CSI) bus in order to be compatible with platforms developed for Intel Xeon processors.

The usage of similar chipsets does not mean that platforms running Intel Itanium and Xeon processors will offer similar functionality. Tukwila will reportedly include “double device data correction”, which means it can handle errors on two separate DRAM modules to prevent a system crash. Currently, Itanium 2 chips can only isolate one module when there is an error in memory.


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