New Itanium Processors Flash Faster FSB

By David Needle (Send Email)
Posted Jul 19, 2005

Intel released an update to its Itanium line with the first two processors in the chip family to sport a 667 MHz front side bus (FSB). Intel released an update to its Itanium line with the first two processors in the chip family to sport a 667 MHz front side bus.

High-end servers, such as a new one being rolled out by Hitachi, are expected to exploit the capabilities of the faster bus to deliver more than 65 percent greater system bandwidth over servers designed with current Itanium 2 processors with a 400 MHz FSB, according to Intel.

While faster than its predecessors, the new Itaniums likely represent the end of the line of single-core Itanium processors. In fact, Intel spent a good portion of a press release on the faster Itaniums touting expected performance boosts for its next generation, the forthcoming dual-core Itanium processor, code-named Montecito.

The dual-core Montecito line will feature the same bus as the Itaniums announced today.

Looking forward, we are coming up on the next major milestone for the Itanium processor family -- dual-core server platforms based on Montecito, said Kirk Skaugen, general manager of Intel's server platforms group. "The preliminary performance results we are seeing on Montecito-based systems will further expand Itanium's leadership in its targeted market segments."

Intel said platforms using Montecito are expected to deliver up to twice the performance, up to three times the system bandwidth, and more than 2 1/2 times as much on-die cache as the current generation of Itanium processors. While boosting performance, Montecito is expected to also deliver more than 20 percent lower power than previous generations of Itanium processors due to new technologies for power management.

Montecito will also utilize Intel Hyper-Threading technology, enabling four times the threads as the current generation.

The improved front side bus bandwidth allows for 10.6 gigabits of data per second to pass from the processor to other system components. In contrast, the current generation 400 MHz FSB transfers 6.4 gigabits of data per second. The ability to move more data in a very short period of time is critical to compute intensive applications in the scientific, oil and gas and government industries.

Hitachi, which will adopt the new Itanium 2 processors with the 667 FSB into new Hitachi BladeSymphony servers coming in the next 30 days, has also designed a chipset (the communications controller between the processor and the rest of the computer system) to take advantage of the new bus architecture.

The Intel Itanium 2 processor at 1.66 GHz with 9 MB of cache with 667 FSB is available for $4,655 in 1,000-unit quantities. The Intel Itanium 2 processor at 1.66 GHz with 6 MB with 667 FSB of cache will be available for $2194 in 1,000-unit quantities

The Itanium has been heralded by Intel and its co-developer HP, as the next wave in computing power, a 64-bit processor it expected to take the market by storm in the same way Intel's Pentium line has. Analysts say the high priced Itanium has found significant niche markets in scientific and complex engineering applications, but hasn't been the wider hit Intel expected and faces stiff competition from AMD.

"It's been a nicely performing chip, but it isn't the dominant processor of the 64-bit world that Intel's processors have been in the 32-bit world," said Gordon Haff, senior analyst at Illuminata. "But, the final chapter hasn't been written."

Article originally appeared on Internetnews.com.

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