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Intel introduces Opteron competitor

Feb 26, 20042 mins

* Intel extends Xeon with 64-bit technology to compete with AMD’s Opteron

Intel last week announced 64-bit extension technology for its Xeon processors, while IBM, Dell and HP said they will support it in servers as soon as mid-year.

Codenamed Nocona, the technology will allow users to run 32- and 64-bit applications on the same machine without performance degradation. Such servers would be positioned as replacements for present Xeon servers and would aim for the less-transaction-intensive market that Intel’s Itanium addresses. For instance, you might see a Xeon server with extension technology hosting a front-end SQL Server database that is back-ended by an Itanium running an Oracle application.

IBM says it will first introduce the new Xeon in its BladeCenter servers, and HP says it will refresh its Xeon product line with the new processor.

When Intel CEO Craig Barrett talked about the new Xeon at the Intel Developer Forum last week in San Francisco, he ended all speculation about “one of the worst-kept secrets in San Francisco” by demonstrating the 64-bit x86 Nocona on a Dell workstation.

Intel had been rumored for several years to be working on a technology that would compete with AMD’s Opteron processor, which has an x86 64-bit mode.

Microsoft plans to support the extension technology in the second half of 2004, and Novell says its SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, which goes into beta in March, will support it as well.

The new Xeon will be able to support at least 4G bytes of memory. Until vendors such as IBM and HP see the processor, however, they won’t comment on the amount of memory the processor will actually support. It is believed to be comparable to AMD’s Opteron processor, which can address as much as 64G bytes.

Intel’s new Xeon will be software-compatible with Opteron-based machines. The processor is scheduled to go to systems manufacturers this spring.