Intel on Wednesday released new performance specifications for its forthcoming McKinley chip, the successor to its 64-bit Itanium processor. Powerful 64-bit chips are key to Intel's strategy of edging out servers based on Sun Microsystems in the high-end data center market and could give CIOs a more economical option for running critical applications such as databases and transaction systems.
McKinley, or Itanium 2, as Intel is now calling the chip, will debut this summer at a speed of 1 GHz and will feature 3 Mbytes of on-die (level 3) cache and three times the internal bus bandwidth of its predecessor. All that adds up to screaming application performance, the company says. For instance, Intel says a four-processor Itanium 2 system will handle more than twice the number of sales and distribution transactions as earlier Itanium systems. In processing secure E-commerce transactions that require Secure Sockets Layer decryption, Intel says a two-processor Itanium 2 system in tests performed 1,440 transactions per second, about the same number performed by a four-processor Itanium system.
Intel has yet to release pricing for Itanium 2 chips, but they will doubtless sell at a premium over Itanium. Still, analysts say the fact that a single Itanium 2 appears capable of performing the work of two Itanium chips should ultimately mean that Itanium 2 will offer lower total cost of ownership compared with its predecessor and to Sun systems. "It appears to be a superior value proposition," says Brooks Gray, a Technology Business Research analyst.
Gray cautions, however, that Itanium 2 isn't field tested and that the chip doesn't yet have the broad application support enjoyed by Intel 32-bit servers and Sun servers. "That could limit the platform's success, at least in the short term," Gray says. Analysts expect Dell Computer, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM to sell Itanium 2 servers.