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HP hedges bets on Intel's Itanium processor

Posted: 12 Nov 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Itanium 9500 processor? Poulson? high-end servers? Oracle? 32nm chips?

Hewlett-Packard announced five servers using Intel's latest Itanium processor, a 32nm chip sporting eight cores and up to 32 MB cache.

Five new server designs were recently rolled out by Hewlett-Packard. The new server designs were based on Intel's Itanium 9500 processor, which is also known as Poulson. HP said that the designs could do up to triple performance using the new 32nm chips that sport eight dual-threaded cores with up to 32 Megabytes cache and run at data rates up to 2.5GHz.

The roll out gives much needed boost to the embattled the Itanium architecture. Intel and HP co-developed the Itanium microprocessor, initially as a replacement for the x86, but the chip never gained broad traction.

"We really did do a brand new microarchitecture," said Rory McInerney, Intel's vice president and general manager of server development. "We went into the core of the CPU, and we built it for longevity."

McInerney, speaking at a San Francisco news conference, said the device has twice the number of cores (eight) of the earlier Itanium 9300 and "maxed out" instruction width, executing, for the first time, a 12-wide bundle of instructions in the 9500.

With the 40 per cent improvement in frequency to 2.53GHz, Intel engineers also reduced power consumption by 8 per cent overall, and 80 per cent in the core when idle.

Designers also enabled some thread-level parallelism in the execution portion of the device, which has traditionally been in-order (where the machine's front end has been out-of-order).

"If a certain instruction stream stalls out...or is waiting for some memory reply, then we're actually able to doing a level of multi-threading in the execution portion of the machine," McInerney said.

Itanium is only used in generally high-end servers, and HP is one of the few companies to make them. Intel will reportedly continue to make Itanium chips at least through 2017 with a next-generation called Kittson in the works for 2014.

Intel's goal with Kittson is to be able to drop new Itanium cores into an SoC that alternatively could use x86 cores to create a Xeon server CPU, said Nathan Brookwood, principal of market watcher Insight64 (Saratoga, Calif.). "If Intel can achieve that they could have a single motherboard for both plaforms and it will make Itanium more sustainable fo9r Intel," said Brookwood.

Keeping Itanium going is an issue because few system makers use the chip. "I dont think there is anybody else making any big strategic bets on Itanium, HP is the only one with a big commitment," Brookwood said.

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