As Intel gears up for the high-end Xeon processor, it is quickly winding down its Pentium with MMX and Pentium Pro CPUs. The company said yesterday that the Xeon Pentium II processors, for high-end workstations and servers, will be available in June. Pricing was not announced.
Xeon will replace the Pentium Pro, which has remained largely unchanged since its introduction in November, 1995. As a stopgap, Intel last year doubled the Level 2 cache of the Pentium Pro to 1MB. Despite its approximately $2,000 (£1,190) price tag, server vendors ate it up, mainly because their customers were in desperate need of an enhancement to the Pentium Pro architecture. But Intel executives expect a rapid crossover to Xeon-based servers this summer, according to Paul Otellini, executive vice president and general manager of Intel's Architecture Business Group.
Although forthcoming Xeon processors have the same P6 core as Pentium Pro, they differ in performance and packaging. For example, Xeon has a full-speed backside bus, supports a 100MHz system bus and offers as much as 2MB of Level 2 cache. Indeed, Intel will do all it can to accelerate the adoption of Xeon with prepackaged server platforms-motherboards that include the processor, chip set, RAM and other components-according to sources. For instance, Intel has a low-end server platform in the works, code-named Nightshade, that includes two Xeon processors, 1GB of RAM, a 440BX chip set, graphics, integrated management and I/O, sources said.
In the third quarter, Intel will release a four-way platform with the forthcoming 450NX chip set, up to 8GB of RAM and a HotPlug PCI, sources said. And in the fourth quarter, the company will enable eight-way servers with Saber, the code name for a platform using the Profusion chip set developed by its subsidiary, Corollary. Such platforms will help accelerate the rate of adoption (OEMs don't have to do their own design work) and bring down system cost.
On the mainstream side of computing, Intel expects an even more rapid move away from Pentium Processors with MMX Technology to the Pentium II and Celeron.
The company has already stopped wafer starts on the chips (meaning it has ceased production on the wafers from which the chips are cut) and dramatically cut prices on Pentiums with MMX and Pentium II chips.
Intel and some PC makers, such as Dell expect to cross over to Pentium IIs entirely by the third quarter.