The Santa Clara, Calif. chipmaker's new Xeon family is available at frequencies of 2.2 GHz, 2 GHz and 1.8 GHz.
As widely-anticipated by server manufacturers, Xeon processors offer customers new system performance boosts, with the Intel Netburst microarchitecture on Intel's .13-micron manufacturing process and Hyper-Threading technology, which allows an operating system to view a single physical processor as if it were two logical processors. By virtue of its makeup, this architecture bolsters performance by increasing server response time, transactions and workloads. Intel said tests conducted on chips using Hyper-Threading can improve the number of simultaneous Web transactions and users that servers can handle.
Jon Enck, a vice president and research director at Gartner Group, said the move represents the introduction of Pentium 4 technology to the server market. Previously, the server market used Pentium III and Pentium III Xeon processors in servers.
"The bottom line is existing applications should see a performance improvement moving to Xeon, probably in the neighborhood of 30-40 percent," Enck told InternetNews.com.
As for the new chipsets, Enck said Intel "has always made chipsets for desktops and laptops, but has been very uneven in its server coverage, instead relying on relationships with ServerWorks to produce the necessary designs. By making more server chipsets, Intel is (1) better able to leverage its own technology (for example, it can includes its own Gigabit Ethernet or InfiniBand chips in the design), and (2) better control the market from a technology perspective."
Also on tap for the Xeons are a larger (512 KB) level two cache size and the E7500 server chipset, which supports DDR memory technology. The E7500 enables twice the memory bandwidth over legacy SDRAM platforms.
Intel is fairly bolting out of the gate with major firms who plan to use the speedy Xeon chips in their latest platforms, including Compaq, Dell, Fujitsu-Siemens, Hewlett Packard, IBM and NEC. What does all of this increased speed and power mean for these firms? The hardware makers can use these chips for their general-purpose Internet servers, which they said have become more and more popular for firms that wish to conduct e-business.
Intel claims that servers made by the IBMs and Compaqs of the world can provide increased scaling flexibility for the customers who use them. For instance, a dot-com or service provider using servers based on Intel chips could accordingly adjust to increasing growth in server workloads.
So, Intel has the speedy chips, but will there be sufficient business call for the servers that are powered by them?
After a dismal year, the semiconductor sector is said to be recovering, according to Gartner Dataquest. The market research firm said that while demand is "extremely weak" in the equipment market, it foresees an acceleration in capital equipment spending in the second half of 2002. However, it will not be enough to curtail the decline in equipment spending, as the market is forecast to drop 19 percent in 2002.
"A macroeconomic recovery and returning electronic equipment demand should finally bring the demand-component of the down cycle under control. However, overcapacity remains excessive and still demands industry attention," said Klaus Rinnen, chief analyst and director of Gartner Dataquest's semiconductor manufacturing group. "With demand firming, the semiconductor industry will be afforded increasing visibility, finally being able to plot its course to another up cycle."
The Intel Xeon processor with 512KB level two Advanced Transfer Cache is priced at $615 in 1,000-unit quantities for 2.20 GHz, $417 for 2 GHz and $251 for 1.80 GHz. The Intel E7500 chipset is priced at $92 in 1,000-unit quantities in minimum configuration and $132 in 1,000 unit quantities in maximum configuration.