iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Intel Deerfield: Low Voltage Itanium 2 

September 14, 2003

By Vladimir Romanchenko (lone@ixbt.com)

On July 30 we were happy to witness the birth of a new generation of 64bit IA-64 Itanium 2 processors with the Madison core at the conference held in Moscow. 

In July the Itanium processors stepped over their infancy period covering the way from Merced to Madison and turned into an efficient and competitive solution for modern servers. 

The Itanium 2 on the Madison core is equipped with the L3 cache up to 6 MB, made on modern production lines according to the 0.13 micron standard and has high clock speeds and optimized power consumption. One more indication of its readiness for the wide industrial penetration is its good software base: the days when the packets for IA64 could be counted on the fingers of the hand are over, and now a potential user can choose from several debugged and optimized operating systems, databases, and over 450 special applications. 

One of the main theses voiced at the presentation of the chips with the Madison core was the advantage of the new processors not in the low-cost sector though this fact negatively told upon the manufacturers of RISC processors; a more important factor is the price/performance ratio which brings the competition against the modern IA64 processors to a risky gamble. 

By this summer Intel had to offer the following processors on the server chips market: a line of the 32bit Xeon DP chips for multiprocessor systems below and the Itanium 2 family above. What factors could be unsatisfactory for a potential buyer? Price and power consumption. Well, today we do have the answer to this question. 

One of the announced models is the 1.40 GHz Itanium 2 with 1.5MB L3 cache. The wholesale price (from 1,000 pcs) is $1,172, and the processor is positioned mostly for sub-$7,000 systems; in other words, the new relatively inexpensive 1.40 GHz Itanium 2 is meant for the upper server sector, where Intel promoted its 32bit Xeon chips so far. 

The second solution - 1.0 GHz LV (Low Voltage) Intel Itanium 2 with 1.5MB L3 cache - was known only as Deerfield. The new chip is based on the same Madison core, it is actually another version with the reduced clock speed.

Unlike other IA64 chips, the new 1.0 GHz LV Itanium 2 consumes only 62W thanks to the low core power supply. Most modern 32bit Xeon chips consume over 70 W.

Another curious factor able to influence the demand for the LV Itanium 2 is its attractive price - $744 (wholesale). No wonder that the Deerfield is often called a "budget Itanium 2". By the way, both new processors take the price niche between the Xeon ($198 - $690) and 0.13micron high-end Itanium 2 ($1338 - $4227). Noteworthy is the fact that the wholesale prices for the Xeon MP with 1MB or 2MB L3 cache is within the range of $1177 - $3692.

The Deerfield is positioned by Intel for economic rack-mount servers with the performance identical to Itanium 2 based systems and twice lower power consumption. By the way, the Deerfield also suits for workstations, for example, based on the single-chip zx2000 from Hewlett-Packard. At the same time, there is nothing to be changed in the design of such models based on the ordinary Itanium 2 as the low-voltage chip is fully compatible with the current layout. However, the list of solutions for the new platform was enlarged: together with the new processors Intel launched the Tiger 2 server board for assemblers of Itanium 2 based platforms.

According to IDC's statistics, Hewlett-Packard is a leader among suppliers of servers and workstations on the Itanium chips, - its share comes to 90%. Systems on the new chips will be produced by many system integrators including such majors as Dell and IBM. The Itanium chips make a small share of Intel's business, in the processor sphere the company gets the most part of the income (over 90%) from the x86 architecture. Intel plans that the inexpensive Itanium chips will make the IA64 architecture more popular. 

Briefly, we got the new inexpensive low-voltage chip Itanium 2. The IA64 doesn't look exotic anymore and gets a real chance to win users' hearts. Apparently, this is just a beginning of this story...

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