Intel's release today of Pentium II chips with error correction code (ECC) capabilities in L2 cache will be followed up by the addition of support for up to four processors. Pencilled in for the first half of next year, the chips will sound the death knell for the Pentium Pro.
Currently, the new PII devices only support uniprocessor and two-way CPU configurations but the addition of four-way capabilities next year will mean the end in sight for the venerable Pro. Support for multiple processors speeds some transactions under Windows NT and Unix.
"Pentium Pro has established itself pretty well in the 1-4 [CPU] space but PII improves the ease of use and ease of manufacturing through the SEC [single edge connector] package," said Chris Parr, European marketing manager for the enterprise server group at Intel. "This is just the start of the PII ECC family so we only have uniprocessor and dual-CPU, but we'll eventually go all the way and do the 2-4 way space, and could go beyond that."
However, Parr said he expected some continued demand for the Pro at lowest price points.
Parr explained the attraction of ECC as a feature that will provide reassurance to users. "In a word, it provides comfort," he said. "It's really for very esoteric circumstances such as an alpha particle hitting a memory cell and causing the machine to crash or lose data. It's very rare but as we saw with the FDIV [maths flaw in the Pentium processor] event, there's a lot of user sensitivity."
For the same reason, Intel will continue to offer non-ECC PII parts for use in standard desktops. "For those machines, [ECC processor support] is an irrelevance," Parr said.
Separately, Parr said he expects systems with Intel's new LX chipset to ship by the end of September this year. "ECC chips with LX chipsets are a very suitable combination," Parr said.