After delays, Intel rolls out Tukwila chip

On same day IBM unveils latest Power7 processor, Intel shows off Itanium 9300

After about a year of delays, Intel Corp. today took the wrappers off its high-end Itanium processor, which is code-named Tukwila.

The new Itanium 9300 processor originally was slated to be released early in 2009, but that timetable slipped twice last year. The timing turned out to benefit Intel a bit, because Tukwila ended up arriving on the same day as IBM's long-anticipated new Power7 processor.

"It's good that Intel finally stepped up and delivered Tukwila and that the chip is shipping with the promised tweaks that caused the delays," said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group Inc. "However, competitors haven't been standing still. IBM had two revs of its Power processor during this time, with the second rev coming out today. So Intel is still playing catch-up in this market."

Olds added that IBM has moved a step ahead of Intel with new Power processor family.

"Today was typical one-upmanship in the industry," he said. "The rivalry in the enterprise space is getting hotter and hotter. And with this between Intel and IBM, it's getting interesting."

Intel officials today noted that the Itanium 9300 chip has 2 billion transistors and four cores; that's up from two cores in the previous Itanium iteration. It also has eight threads per processor. And the chip maker noted that, compared to the last Itanium release, this new processor has up to 800% the interconnect bandwidth and up to 500% the memory bandwidth.

Olds said that computer builders and corporate IT shops are likely more interested in the capabilities of the Itanium 9300 processor family than the reasons for the delays -- that Intel changed its design midstream.

"The Itanium line has been rife with delays from the start, which has frustrated the hardware OEMs that have relied on the chip for their systems," added Olds. "However, Intel discussed a four-year road map for Itanium today, saying that they'd be delivering new chips about every two years. It's important that Intel hit those milestones."

Intel today said that it is committed to putting out at least two more generations of Itanium -- one in two years and the next in four years.

Poulson, which is the code name for the next Itanium processor, is expected to feature an advanced multicore architecture, instruction-level and hyper-threading enhancements, and new reliability features, according to the chip maker.

Intel also pointed that it will refresh its two-socket systems with Westmere EX processors later this quarter and that it will launch an embedded storage chip, code-named Jasper Forest, in the next several days. Intel also noted that it will launch an eight-core Nehalem EX chip later this quarter.

James Niccolai of the IDG News Service contributed to this article.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, send e-mail to sgaudin@computerworld.com or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed .

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