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Return of the McKinley

After some delays, Intel's second generation 64-bit processor, now known as Itanium 2, has begun shipping to server vendors worldwide.

Intel has launched its Itanium 2 processor worldwide. Formerly known as McKinley, its arrival brings to an end a long wait for enterprise server vendors and end-users, who are ready to move with Intel’s strategy of taking over the enterprise market, currently dominated by RISC/Unix chip architectures.

“With the processor’s outstanding performance, enterprise-class capabilities and enormous industry support, 2002 will be the year the Itanium processor family makes real headway towards becoming the platform of choice in high-end data centre computing,” said Mike Fister, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Enterprise Platform’s Group.

The main plank of Intel’s strategy is to apply the same volume and performance characteristics to the high end that it offers with it Xeon and Pentium lines. According to IDC, Intel based servers already account for 88% of servers sold by volume. But the other 12% accounts for nearly half the value, some $24 billion by IDC’s reckoning. With Itanium 2 the company is promising double the performance offered by the first generation and hopes to see it do better in the market than Itanium, which had poor uptake.

Fister is confident because all the major vendors, except for Dell, were on hand at the launch to talk about their plans for Itanium 2 based boxes. HP, which is Intel’s development partner on 64-bit, is planning to eventually migrate its Superdome line to 64-bit architecture, and companies like NEC, Unisys and Bull are planning 16 and 32 way boxes soon. Theoretically, Itanium 2 can scale up to 512 linked processors.

Critics blamed Itanium’s limited functionality and the lack of application development for slow sales. However, Itanium 2 is supported by Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and BEA to name a few, so Intel believes it will fare much better. It will also be fully compatible with the third and fourth generations of the architecture, named Madison and Montecito respectively, whereas Itanium is a stand alone product.

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