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Hot off the Press - News & Commentary
Monday, 01/17/05 by Chuck Brown, Assoc. Editor

Intel Server Xeon Processor Cache King
If you want a fast server processor the key is Cache size more so than contrived clock frequency. This happens to be one area that Intel is determined to stay King if the Cache Hill. Rumors have been running rampant lately that Intel would be announcing some impressive news, so when we caught a bit of info on Intel server roadmap on their web site we nearly fell out of our seats. (insert roadmap link)

According to the site information, Intel plans to double the on-chip cache memory on the Xeon MP processor to 8MB in a near future release code named “Potomac”. The expectation is that you will see this processor during the second quarter of 2005. Keep in mind that Intel has been having serious design and manufacturing problems too.

All this goodness happens to the current 3.0 GHz advertised clock speed Xeon MP processor too, but the bets news is that a Potomac model will also be rated at 3.5 GHz with the 8MB cache. You might remember that Intel had to retract their promise of the release of a 4 GHz version of the P-4 and any near future Xeon processor shows none clocking over 3.8 GHz.

However, there is a reference to a new P-4 desktop processor at 3.8 GHz code named the 660 which will endowed with 1MB of cache. It will reportedly ship during the first quarter of 2005. Shortly after that, Intel’s road map indicates that there will be a Pentium 4 coded 670 that will carry 2MB of cache by the third quarter of 2005. There is no mention of the advertised clock speed for the 670 though, however we believe that it will still be 3.8 GHz.

Dual-Core and Desktop in their sights-
As we reported earlier, Intel is hotly pursuing AMD’s venture into “Dual-Core” processors and the roadmap references an X40 for the end of the third quarter of 2005. The current code name for this 90-nanometer processor is “Smithfield”. Better yet, the next series code named Cedar Mill design will be 65-nanometer hopefully out in 2006.

More so on the desktop front, Intel is like everyone else focusing on the “Digital Home” and “Digital Office”: bandwagon with packaged chipsets and processors that deliver more features than just more clock speed. In a presentation for financial analysts in New York,

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Intel President and Chief Operating Officer Paul Otellini said that Intel plans to rebound from a rocky 2004 where a lot roadmap planning was thrown out the window by the third quarter.

You might recall that Intel suddenly began having manufacturing problems with Pentiums 4 and server processors over 3.2 GHz clock speed. Intel isn’t the only one that’s hit the GHz brick wall as IBM seems to be stalled with the PPC-970 (Mac G5) at 2.5 GHz. AMD also hasn’t announced any speedier Althon 64 processors either.

Instead, Intel is pursuing more of the same course that the Centrino “platform oriented” chipsets has led then in 2004. That’ll mean the first of the desktop Centrino’s with less than dramatic clock speed specs. Info out of Intel says that the first of these is code named “Lyndon” and will have 2MB of Cache, and even have 64-bit extensions to the x86 instruction set, Intel will "aggressively" bring 64-bit capabilities to its desktop processors in the first half of 2005. Of course it would help if Microsoft got their butts in gear with Longhorn to use the 64-bit hardware, huh?

The Lyndon chipset will support Intel's active management technology feature for helping IT manager’s access inactive PCs hooked up to a company's network and also make use of Intel's Enhanced SpeedStep technology.

Furture down the road, Intel will bring out the digital home and digital office oriented Averill and Bridge Creek hardware platforms. These will feature the Intel's security and virtualization technologies that were highlighted at the Intel Developer Forum conferences.

We like to do the “Bottom Line” and as we see it, look like the manufacturers have hit a clock speed brick wall – Intel, AMD, IBM and Motorola. Some are worse off then others, IBM has serious problems getting past 2.5 GHz and massive heat problems with the PPC 970 (G5). Intel’s problems seem to be more of the usable manufacturing output.

This may be a good thing in disguise because we really don’t need any faster processors, but we do need better feature sets and 64-bit processing, and dual-core chips sound pretty exciting.

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