Intel launched what will be its largest server and storage refresh beginning Monday with the introduction of the Itanium 9300 line, the long-delayed "Tukwila" family of quad-core Itanium processors.
Itanium was a joint venture by Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) and a number of server firms when it first started, but many have since dropped out. Only HP (NYSE: HPQ) remains and has been transitioning its mission-critical servers from the proprietary PA-RISC processor to Itanium for several years.
Intel claims that 80 percent of the Global 100 corporations have chosen Itanium-based servers for mission-critical applications. One example is the Tokyo Stock Exchange, which spent 18 months testing a Fujitsu PrimeQuest server running a Linux/Itanium 9300 environment, and finally switched off its mainframe last month.
In the process, the Exchange saw a whopping 600-fold performance gain, making it comparable to the London and New York Stock Exchanges, noted Kirk Skaugen, vice president, Intel Architecture group and general manager of the datacenter group, at the Tukwila launch event.
HP has a few customers lined up as well. Pella Corp., a manufacturer of windows and doors, deployed HP Integrity Superdome servers running the Itanium 9300 and HP-UX 11i, HP's own Unix flavor. "The HP Integrity Superdome server running HP-UX 11i allows Pella to easily scale to support our continued business growth while lowering the risk associated with seasonal demand," said Jim Thomas, director of IT operations at Pella in a statement.
Telecommunications provider Telefónica also uses HP Integrity servers with HP-UX 11i in its Miami datacenter. "With HP Integrity and HP-UX 11i as the backbone of our infrastructure, we are able to provide highly resilient and secure services to our customers, while reducing our own data center costs and footprint," said Victor Carreno, director of engineering for Telefónica USA, in a statement.
Part of a Big Server Push
Intel has already launched the Xeon 3400 processor, a low-end server processor for mass market hardware. Over the next 90 days, it will launch the Westmere-EP line of mid-range Xeon servers built on the Westmere generation of 32nm processors.
Later this quarter is the Nehalem-EX, an eight-core server processor and in a few days, it will launch a new storage processor, called Jasper Forest, which puts PCI-Express on a Xeon processor for the first time in the storage market. At the launch event for the processor, Skaugen called it the largest server and storage refresh in the company's history.
The previous generation, the Itanium 9100, a.k.a. "Montecito," shipped in 2006. The jump in performance from that old technology is significant. The 9300 has twice as many cores, each with eight threads per core, more cache, up to 800 percent the interconnect bandwidth thanks to the use of the QuickPath Interconnects, up to 500 percent the memory bandwidth, and up to 700 percent the memory capacity using DDR3 memory and Intel's Scalable Memory Interconnect and Scalable Memory Buffer.
The processor has a number of advanced machine-check error detection and handling to monitor the hardware, firmware and operating system. This increased reliability, availability and scalability (RAS) services help systems recover from what would otherwise cause a fatal system error.
The 9300 has several new features that weren't available when the 9100 shipped in 2006, such as support for virtualized environments and power gates to turn off portions of CPU when not in use.
As such, this processor cannot be put in an older 9100 system. Intel and AMD (NYSE: AMD) have both tried to protect server investment by making them socket-compatible and allow for upgrades, but it was not possible in this case since Tukwila changed so much.
For example, it dropped the older, less efficient FBDIMM memory with DDR3, the industry standard. That will allow for a 900 percent increase in performance in memory, said Skaugen. But Intel can promise that Tukwila and the next two generations of processors, codenamed "Poulson" and "Kitson," will be socket compatible.
"There's one thing people really demand here and that is the ability to not have to do forklift upgrades on a regular basis. They want investment protection and today we're committing to have a range of microprocessors from Tukwila, Poulson and Kitson in a variety of products," said Skaugen.
Itanium OEMs are expected to begin shipping servers in the next 90 days.