Intel seeks to renew excitement for IA-64 at developer event

InfoWorld |  Hardware

INTEL HOPES TO demonstrate that there is still plenty of momentum surrounding the support of IA-64, even though the platform's Itanium processor has been delayed for nearly three years.

At the Intel Developer's Forum (IDF) next week in San Jose, Calif., Intel will offer testimonials from some of the companies that have engaged in its Itanium pilot program, sources said. Most of these pilot program companies, which include Wells Fargo Bank and the Mayo Clinic, have had working IA-64 systems in operation since last year.

In-depth discussions of the performance of IA-64 and Itanium, which is also referred to by its code name, Merced, will set the stage for Itanium's long-overdue release, slated for the second half of this year, sources said.

Intel's show of customer support for IA-64 and Itanium is critical, considering the secrecy of the technology's development, according to Nathan Brookwood, the principal analyst at Insight 64, in Saratoga, Calif.

"I would say they need to start some momentum [over IA-64]," Brookwood said. "I think Merced has dropped off the map. What Intel has been doing in terms of its pilot program may be good in validating the system, but we don't know, because everyone that's participating is under NDA [non-disclosure agreement]."

"Merced was first scheduled to arrive in 1999, then it was pushed back to the second half of 2000, and now here we are rapidly approaching the first quarter of 2001 and still haven't seen it," Brookwood said.

Making sure Itanium ships on time with Intel's mid-2001 launch target will play a big part in the early success of Itanium and IA-64, Brookwood said.

Also at the show, Intel will have demonstrations of its next-generation IA-64 chip, code-named McKinley. Intel plans to begin sampling McKinley by the end of this year, with full production scheduled sometime in 2002, sources said.

McKinley is expected to fully optimize IA-64. Itanium has long been seen as merely proof-of-concept for IA-64, Intel's 64-bit computing platform, according to those familiar with the technology.

For the first time in IDF history, server-related issues such as IA-64 will make up more than 50 percent of the show's content, sources said.

Intel officials will announce a speed increase in the company's Xeon processor during the show. The server chip will advance to 900MHz by the end of the year, sources said.

Intel will also announce that it will do away with the Pentium III and Pentium 4 prefixes on its Xeon line of processors, sources said.

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