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Intel to launch its next gen Itanium CPU this year

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September 12, 2012

Intel said yesterday that it's well on track to launch its next-generation Itanium processor later this year, pushing away any previous industry speculation that the CPU would reach its end of life anytime soon.

In fact, some had expected such news from the chip giant in March of this year.

The next-generation Itanium chip for Unix and Linux servers, code-named Poulson, will succeed the current Itanium chip code-named Tukwila, which was released three years ago after many delays.

The CPU is used in fault-tolerant servers that typically run high-end and enterprise applications. "We're on track for the launch of Poulson later this year," said Diane Bryant, vice president and general manager of the Datacenter and Connected Systems Group at Intel, during an interview at the Intel Dev Forum being held in San Francisco yesterday.

Intel is also developing new server chips for heavy workloads such as cloud and high-performance computing. The company has started shipping test units of its Xeon E5 and E7 servers based on the Ivy Bridge microarchitecture, and has assigned the new brand 'Atom S' to its low-power Atom server chips.

The Xeon and Atom S chips are targeted at servers mainly based on the Windows and Linux operating systems, although Unix and Solaris are also in Intel's near-term plans as well.

"We have the best solution for every workload that emerges from the data center," Bryant added. A big event is being planned for the launch of the Itanium chip code-named Poulson later this year, Bryant said. The company will continue to develop Itanium CPUs and is developing Poulson's followup child, code-named Kittson.

"It continues to be a rather lucrative market. For those customers than run Unix and Solaris we want to continue to have a solution," Bryant said.

Servers with Itanium chips are mainly offered by Hewlett-Packard as part of its high-end Integrity server line. However, there has been speculation that Intel would stop developing Itanium, which the company has denied.

The Itanium processor architecture has been at the center of a highly publicized lawsuit between Oracle and HP. Oracle said in March 2011 it would stop software development for HP's Itanium servers, claiming the processor was reaching its end of life.

HP then sued Oracle in June that year for breach of contract, and a judge ruled in HP's favor, ordering Oracle to continue porting software to the Itanium platform.

In April of 2010, Microsoft said it was abandoning Intel's Itanium platform after its release of its Windows Server 2008 and various server tools software.

The case's second phase will begin in February 2013 to determine whether Oracle breached the contact and the damages it may owe. Even Red Hat has already dropped Itanium support for Linux.

Itanium makes up only three percent of server units, but nearly 25 percent of the revenue for Intel. The chip giant has also started shipping test units of its Xeon E5 and E7 chips based on Ivy Bridge and made using the 22-nanometer manufacturing process, Bryant said during a separate presentation at IDF.

Additionally, Intel continues to load Itanium-type RAS (reliability serviceability and availability) features in its Xeon processors.

The new Ivy Bridge server chips brings tremendous gains in performance at lower power consumption due to the latest 22-nm manufacturing process. Current E5 and E7 chips are made using the 32-nm process.

The new Xeon E5 and E7 chips also have a new virtualization feature called APICv, Bryant said. The APICv feature is baked into the hardware and reduces the number of steps involved in deploying and clearing virtual servers.

Intel also added that the new low-power Atom S chip code-named Centerton was due for release in the coming months. HP said it will release servers based on Centerton in the near future.

The new server chips will be available sometime in Q1 or Q2 of 2013. Intel usually releases new server chips on a yearly basis towards the end of the first quarter or the second quarter of the year.

The previous-generation E5 and E7 chips based on the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture were released in March this year. Companies are trying to harness computing power available in data centers in the most energy efficient way.

There is a growing interest in low-power processors like ARM and Atom S, especially from Web-serving companies like Google and Twitter.

Source: Intel Corp.

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