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Responding once again to competitive threats from AMD, microprocessor giant Intel has scrapped its previous plans for server chips, delaying three versions of the next-generation Itanium and cancelling a future Xeon revision. Intel representatives attribute the Itanium delay to quality problems. But analysts say that AMD is making headway in the server market with its 64-bit Opteron chips, with which Intel wasn’t effectively competing.
The first version of the delayed Itanium processor, code-named Montecito, was originally due late this year. Now, Intel says the Montecito will ship in mid-2006. “We need some additional time to provide the quality that Intel is known for,” an Intel representative said, while offering no other details about reasons for the delay.
Intel will also reduce the clock speed of the Montecito from a planned 2GHz to 1.6GHz. However, the company maintains that Montecito will still provide twice the performance of today’s Itanium chips. Additionally, Intel will be removing power-management technology it originally planned to introduce in Montecito. Future versions of Itanium, code-named Montvale and Tukwila, have been delayed to 2007 and 2008, respectively.
As for the Xeon, Intel has cancelled plans for an upcoming multiprocessor version of the chip, code-named Whitefield, and will instead replace that wiih another version, code-named Tigerton, which will appear in 2007. The Tigerton will be a quad-core design, offering four processor cores in one chip. At this time, however, Tigerton is expected to feature the same performance bottleneck that characterizes Intel’s dual-core chips. AMD dual-core processors don’t include this bottleneck and perform better as a result.
Intel’s delays and plan changes give AMD an opening in the server market. Although the Opteron accounts for just 10 percent of today’s server CPU market, AMD’s current-generation desktop and server microprocessors are widely viewed as being technically superior to Intel’s designs, while offering performance benefits
by Paul Thurrott