Intel sheds more light on McKinley

The view of Intel Corp.'s upcoming McKinley processor sharpened Wednesday as the chip maker offered up new details of its next generation 64-bit processor at the Intel Developer Forum in San Jose, Calif.

McKinley is the code name for the second 64-bit chip along Intel's IA-64, or Itanium, processor road map. The first chip, simply called Itanium, debuted in May.

Unlike the slow-selling Itanium chip, which was generally greeted by industry experts as proof-of-concept of Intel's ability to master 64-bit computing, McKinley is expected to flourish and shoulder more enterprise and scientific computing applications. Many of those applications were ported to Intel's IA-64 platform using the Itanium chip.

Intel expects McKinley to deliver anywhere from 1.5 times to 2 times the performance of Itanium, said Intel spokesman Bill Kircos. McKinley's 400MHz system bus, double that of Itanium, will handle data rates of as much as 64Gbps, Kircos said.

Additional performance will come from McKinley's on-die L3 cache. Itanium's L3 cache was off-die, separate from the processor, and somewhat slower.

McKinley will debut at a clock speed of 1GHz. Pilot systems will ship by year's end with actual systems hitting the market sometime in 2002.

McKinley's 870 chip set will offer a scalability port allowing users to scale McKinley out to 512 processor configurations, Kircos said.

An "enhanced machine check architecture" within McKinley will help the chip to detect, catalog, and fix computational errors. Thermal management technology onboard McKinley will also enable the processor to temporarily trim down its performance in the event of an overheating problem, like the failure of a cooling fan.

Applications compiled on the Itanium chip will not have to be recompiled for use on McKinley. But recompiling for McKinley will increase performance, said Kircos.

Following McKinley will be third- and forth-generation Itanium chips code-named Deerfield and Madison, according to Intel officials. Madison will be designed for data-intensive 8-way and 16-way servers. Deerfield will take on lighter loads, using less power and running mainly 2-way servers.

Major computer makers including Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and IBM have each announced their support for Intel's Itanium processor family going forward. The promise of widespread industry development atop Intel's 64-bit architecture even prompted Compaq and HP to announce they will eventually drop their separate PA-RISC-based chip platforms and offer Itanium systems exclusively.

Contributing to the development of IA-64, Microsoft on Tuesday released its Windows Advanced Server, Limited Edition operating system designed to run on Intel's 64-bit Itanium chips.

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Dan Neel

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