Intel rivals aim to trump its conference

AMD and Broadcom will attempt to draw some of the attention away from the Intel Developer Conference next week with major announcements of their own
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Intel is not the only company that will be unveiling new products during next week's Intel Developer Forum (IDF); competitors Broadcom and AMD will also be keeping busy.

Broadcom's ServerWorks unit is expected to announce a dual-processor chipset for Intel's Prestonia server chip. Prestonia is the code-name for the first Pentium 4-based Xeon -- Intel's server-grade chips. Meanwhile AMD has timed the announcement of its own next-generation server chipset to coincide with IDF. Chipsets are crucial components in any computer as they connect the processor to other elements such as memory, graphics and networks. They often have a significant effect on the overall speed of a system.

The theme of this spring's conference is "Advancing the Digital Universe", which is aimed at highlighting Intel's plans for everything non-PC, from servers to mobile devices. PC-related announcements, such as faster Pentium 4s and Celerons, as well as mobile chips, will be reserved for later in the week.

ServerWorks, which dominates the market for server chipsets, will be announced on 25 February and is expected to sport a 333MHz memory bus speed, connecting to Intel's 533MHz front side bus. Intel's Plumas chipset, to be announced at the show, competes with ServerWorks' offerings.

Plumas and the ServerWorks part are both designed for Intel's Prestonia chip. Dell pre-emptively introduced a low-end server based on Prestonia earlier this week.

AMD announced the 8000 series of chipsets for its upcoming "Hammer" processors on Thursday, highlighting a technology which it says will trounce server parts from Intel and other competitors. Hammer is intended as the successor to AMD's Athlon processor, which has proven popular with buyers, but with added features for servers. AMD generally holds briefings and product announcements to coincide with IDF.

The chipsets incorporate HyperTransport, an AMD-developed interconnect technology designed to eliminate bottlenecks within the PC infrastructure.

"These chipsets are designed to be compatible with today's hardware components, and allow for a seamless transition to tomorrow's far more advanced, higher performance platforms," said Ed Ellett, vice president of marketing for AMD's computation products group, in a statement.

The parts include the 8111 I/O hub, the 8131 PCI-X tunnel (AMD's term for a high-speed link) and the 8151 AGP3.0 graphics tunnel, and will be available in the fourth quarter of this year, around the same time as the SledgeHammer server chip is expected to appear.

The Hammer chipsets will be the first introduction of HyperTransport in standard PC hardware. Hammer will include other speed innovations, such as a memory controller built into the chip; this allows it to access memory directly, rather than through the often-crowded thoroughfare of the chipset, AMD says.

HyperTransport was originally developed by AMD for exchanging data between multiple processors in servers, but the technology's reach has broadened into networking and other applications. Meanwhile, 3GIO, a similar technology developed by Intel, will complement HyperTransport as the eventual successor to PCI, the longtime standard for connecting devices such as graphics cards and network cards to computers.

Intel's 3GIO plans will be one of the many topics discussed at IDF.

Other Intel announcements will include information about the upcoming Banias mobile chip, the McKinley 64-bit server chip and details of Serial ATA II, which will expand the performance and features of the Serial ATA standard to address networking and server applications.

CNET News.com's John G. Spooner contributed to this report.

To find out more about the computers and hardware that these chips are being used in, see ZDNet UK's Hardware News Section.

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