Intel chipset problem mars Nocona launch

Just days after an internal memo from Intel CEO Craig Barrett was published calling the company's recent manufacturing problems "not acceptable," a bug has emerged with the chipset developed for Intel's latest Xeon servers, which are scheduled to be launched on Monday.

A flaw in the memory controller of Intel's E7520 and E7320 chipsets, which are code-named Lindenhurst and Lindenhurst VS, can cause the system to hang under certain circumstances, when using certain devices that support Intel's next-generation PCI Express I/O bus, said a source close to Intel.

The flaw affects certain multi-function devices like some networking cards with multiple ports, the source said.

"The chances of it occurring are very rare, and the workaround is don't use PCI Express," said Kevin Krewell, editor in chief of the Microprocessor Report.

Still, the fact that the error was discovered just as Intel is readying a marketing blitz to accompany the release of its new Nocona Xeon chips for dual-processor servers is a blow for Intel, Krewell said. "Part of the big deal of the whole platform introduction was PCI Express," he said. "It certainly undercuts the advantage of the platform, by not having PCI Express recommended to be used in the server space."

The flaw also affects the E7525 chip set designed for workstation systems that include Nocona, but it is likely to have a greater effect on server users, Krewell said. "If you have a server that many people are using, or where key business data is being processed and it hangs, then that could have a far more wide-reaching effect," he said.

July has been a rough month for Intel. On Thursday, the chipmaker announced that the launch of its 4GHz Pentium 4 processor would be delayed until the first quarter of 2005, after Intel determined that it would not be able to meet production demand by the scheduled Q4 2004 deadline.

On July 16, Intel revealed that its next-generation mobile chipset, code-named Sonoma, was being delayed because the product did not meet Intel's production standards.

Intel is expected to publish an errata notice about the Lindenhurst flaw on its developer.intel.com Web site Monday, the source said.

An Intel spokesman declined to comment on this story, citing a company policy prohibiting comment on unannounced products.

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