McKinley servers to massively undercut Merced

Servers and workstations based on McKinley will be twice as fast and half the price of current Itanium systems, says Hewlett-Packard

Servers based on the second iteration of Intel's 64-bit Itanium processor, code-named McKinley, will offer twice the performance at half the price of first-generation machines.

Speaking to ZDNet UK at a press event in Dublin on Tuesday, Hewlett-Packard's Itanium programme manager, Marc Botherel, said cheaper chip prices together with advances in the rest of the hardware will have a massive effect on price. McKinley is due to ship towards the end of the first half of 2002.

Chief among the developments will be Hewlett-Packard's "Pluto" chipset. This chipset, housed on a single die, will be common among both servers and workstations. It will support HP's own 64-bit PA-RISC processors as well as McKinley. "Pluto will be cheap to produce," said Bothorel. "The processors will be cheaper too, but the big savings will come from sharing designs between commercial servers and technical workstations." Currently, workstations and servers tend to use different chipsets and so need different motherboards, meaning that volumes of individual components are lower.

Economies of scale will be helped by the fact that Pluto will have an AGP graphics bus, said Bothorel, meaning that it can be used in workstations as well as in servers. "Pluto will be the first 64-bit chipset to support AGP," Bothorel said.

Such developments are likely to help Itanium find a wider audience. The first Itanium processor, based on the Merced core, has had a cautious welcome from customers. Only about 70,000 systems based on Merced shipped worldwide from all computer makers in 2001, and Dell recently ceased manufacture of its Itanium-based workstations. Most of the companies that have bought Itanium systems have been using them in pilot projects.

Thomas Ullrich, marketing manager for Unix systems at HP, said McKinley will fair better because it will have a full software stack. "People will start to push it out in production environments," said Ullrich. "It will take a year to really build up credibility. In 2003 we will start to see broad market adoption."

Costs will also drop as system sizes decrease. Manufacturers will be able to produce McKinley servers that are significantly smaller than servers based on Itanium. HP rack-mounted servers based on Itanium are 7U in size, but when McKinley servers go into production, HP will be selling them in 2U packages.

Some of the speed increases meanwhile will come from the McKinley processor itself. This processor will have a 128-bit memory bus instead of the 64-bit bus of the Merced Itanium. The cache will also move onto the die for McKinley.

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