New Pentium Pro to boast 1Mb L2 cache

Pentium Pro-based servers will get a big power boost next week when Intel Corp. releases a Pentium Pro processor with 1Mb of integrated Level 2 cache.

The Pentium Pro currently has a maximum of 512Kb of L2 cache. Cache is the dedicated bank of memory that acts as a temporary holding place for instructions being sent to the CPU. It works much faster than a hard drive, and the bigger the cache, the faster the performance.

The processor will be used in conjunction with the current 450GX chip set, sources said.

Sources expect the high-performance processor to be used in four-way server configurations in distributed enterprise environments, rather than for departmental file and print services.

And although specific pricing was not available, sources said the chip will not be cheap. The fastest Pentium Pro in Intel's lineup today, the 200MHz with 512Kb of L2 cache, is priced at $1,035 in 1,000-unit quantities.

The release of the beefy Pentium Pro will give enterprise sites a much-needed performance boost. The Pro -- Intel's sole server platform -- hasn't been improved for well over a year.

The Pentium II, although used in some servers today, is not intended for the server market. Major changes are due in the first half of 1998, when Intel releases faster versions of the Pentium II in a Slot 2 cartridge, sources said.

Several companies, including Hewlett-Packard Co., Compaq Computer Corp. and NEC Computer Division, are expected to announce servers based on the new Pentium Pro processor next week, sources said.

Intel officials in Santa Clara, Calif., declined to comment on unannounced products.