Intel's Montvale Itanium chip arrives

The chipmaker launched on Wednesday its line of Itanium processors for high-end computing servers

Intel announced on Wednesday its line of Itanium products for high-end computing servers.

Code-named "Montvale", the chip is an update to Montecito, the Dual-Core Itanium 2 chip which was launched in July last year, Eddie Toh, regional platform marketing manager of the Server Platforms Group for Asia-Pacific at Intel, said in an interview on Monday.

Originally due in 2006, the launch of Montvale has been held up until now. Like Montecito, the new Itanium chip is based on a manufacturing process with circuitry dimensions of 90nm (nanometres), and has two processor cores.

Montvale, also known as the Itanium 9100 processor series, ships in seven iterations consisting of six dual-core chips and a single-core chip, Toh said.

Comparing Montvale to the existing Itanium 9000 processor series, Toh said the new chip has three new features.

The first new feature — core-level lock-step — is said to strengthen the Itanium platform's support for mission-critical applications, as it "improves the data integrity and reliability of applications by eliminating undetected errors in the core".

Coupled with the existing socket-level lock-step technology, the core-level lock-step feature enables "greater reliability, availability and serviceability [RAS] by guaranteeing that calculation results are consistent among the cores and sockets", Intel said.

The second new feature is a power-management feature known as "demand-based switching" (DBS), Toh said. It reduces power consumption by servers during low CPU-utilisation periods.

According to Toh, the third feature is an increase in the front-side bus (FSB) performance by up to 667MHz, which means applications that demand greater bandwidth can run faster. In addition, the 9100 processor series has a clock speed of up to 1.66GHz.

Toh added that, based on Intel's own lab tests, Montvale has almost a 19 percent performance gain over Montecito at similar frequencies. This is due to the additional bandwidth provided from the faster system bus.

"Tukwila", the next generation of Itanium chips, based on the 65nm process, is expected to arrive sometime in 2008 or 2009, while the 32nm "Poulson" is expected in 2010 or 2011.