Intel brings virtualization to desktop chips

Intel is expected to unveil two new desktop processors that come with hardware support for virtualisation technologies, but users won't be able to take advantage of that technology for some time.

The new single-core Intel Pentium 4 672 and 662 processors were almost identical to the 670 and 660 Pentium 4 processors in Intel's product lineup, except the new chips hade transistors dedicated to improving the performance of virtualisation software, Intel director of advanced technologies marketing, Chad Taggard, said.

Virtualisation technology allows PC and server users to run multiple operating environments on a single processor, allowing one machine to be carved into several virtual computers.

For example, users could access corporate applications in one operating environment, while using a different environment for personal applications. IT managers could exercise tight control over the corporate application environment and prevent viruses or malware from moving from the personal environment to the rest of the company's network.

This has been possible for a while with software from companies like VMware, XenSource, but hardware virtualisation allows that software to run more efficiently. However, in order to take advantage of the extra performance boost from Intel's virtualisation technology, the software companies had to build support for that capability into their products, Taggard said. That process was underway, but the updated software products weren't expected to become available until around the beginning of next year, he said.

Early next year, Intel will bring the hardware virtualisation technology into its dual-core Pentium D processors, Taggard said. Around the same time Intel will also introduce virtualisation into its Xeon server processors. AMD is also planning to introduce virtualisation technology for server and desktop processors next year.

Lenovo Group, Acer, Founder Group, and Tsinghua Tongfang Computer System Business Group plan to announce support for the new chips immediately.

PC market heavyweights Dell and HP were waiting until next year to introduce the technology into their systems, Taggard said.

Lenovo was only offering evaluation systems at this time, a company spokesperson said.

Shipments of ThinkCentre M52 desktops with the new Pentium 4 662 and 672 chips wouldn't begin until early next year, she said.

The Pentium 4 672 runs at 3.8GHz, features 2MB of cache memory and costs $US605, just like the 670 processor. The 662 processor costs $401, the same price as the 660 processor.

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