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Thursday, June 24, 2004
Intel to unveil 64-bit Xeon on Monday

Intel plans to unveil its first processor with 64-bit extensions technology next week, sources familiar with Intel's plans have indicated.

Back in February, Intel announced that Nocona, code name for the next-generation of the Xeon processor, would be the company's first chip to incorporate EM64T technology. EM64T is Intel's name for its 64-bit extensions to the x86 instruction set, a concept pioneered by rival chip maker AMD.

Intel will release Nocona on Monday along with the Tumwater chipset for workstations, sources said. The Lindenhurst chipset for servers will follow in the third quarter, the sources said.

An Intel spokesman declined to comment on the unannounced products.

The Nocona processor will allow workstations and servers to run both 32-bit and 64-bit applications on the same system, provided that server uses a 64-bit operating system. AMD was the first to introduce such a processor with the launch of the Opteron chip in April of 2003.

As AMD worked toward the release of Opteron, Intel shied away from making concrete predictions about its plans for x86 servers with 64-bit extensions, and said 64-bit desktops wouldn't appear until the end of the decade.

The appeal of x86 64-bit machines will broaden later this year when a 64-bit version of Microsoft's Windows operating system is released. Several 64-bit versions of Linux are currently available that will work with either Nocona or Opteron.

Nocona and the new chipsets incorporate other design enhancements besides 64-bit extensions technology. The processor is essentially the same as the 90-nanometer Prescott Pentium 4 processor unveiled earlier this year, with 1MB of Level 2 cache and an 800MHz front-side bus. Intel puts the server versions of its chips through stringent testing and validation efforts to ensure they can handle the more demanding tasks performed by servers.

The newest Xeon processor will also support the PCI Express interconnect technology along with the Tumwater and Lindenhurst chipsets. PCI Express is a fundamental change in a chipset's bus architecture from a parallel design to a serial design. This allows signals to move at faster rates throughout the chipset.

Intel will also support DDR2 (double data rate) memory with the new processors and chipsets. DDR2 memory can operate more reliably at high speeds than its predecessor, DDR memory.

Until the Nocona processors arrive, there is no way to know how they will stack up against the Opteron chip. Nocona will probably outperform Opteron on some applications and trail it on others, IBM executives said in February.


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