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Intel's dual-core line may fuel comeback

Intel executive says new dual-core processors and chip enhancements will capture lost market share from rival AMD.

Lisa Graff
Intel was dealt a large blow last month when long-time partner Dell Inc. said it intended to release a server line based on processors from AMD. Now, with a new line of dual-core processors released this week, Intel is talking comeback. spoke with Lisa Graff, Intel's general manager of server platform management, for her perspective on how Intel can get its groove back and when IT managers can expect to see the chip maker's newest dual-core architecture in action. Intel just released Woodcrest, the first processor in the Xeon 5100 line. But Woodcrest is not the first Intel dual-core chip, correct?

Lisa Graff: It's not. We released Dempsey, another dual-core server chip in May, and our first dual-core server chip, code-named Paxville, was released at the end of 2005. Dempsey is at almost the same performance level as Woodcrest, but Woodcrest is better for performance per watt because it is lower power. So, anybody with interest in lower power would go after Woodcrest. Dempsey will extend to lower price segments. We think Dempsey will be great for emerging markets that are not dealing with the power issues of a big data center.

Woodcrest is based on new architecture -- our new Core architecture, which includes a number of new features in the platform. One is called I/O Acceleration Technology. IOAT offloads some of the networking applications from the processor. So, if you have a very network-heavy application, you can see up to a 40% decrease in power consumption. And there are memory enhancements. We are leading the industry with a new feature called Fully Buffered Dimm, which builds on our existing memory format, but it has higher capacity so you can put more memory in your system.

We also plan to release a dual-core desktop and a mobile chip in the Xeon 5100 line. When will we see servers with new dual-core chips?

Graff: Every major vendor is going to carry servers with Woodcrest. We have 150 OEMs with 200 different server models. We expect lots of them to be shipping in July. So, very soon. Do you think this new processor series can help Intel regain some of the market lost to AMD recently?

Graff: We've been doing servers for a long time and IT managers have deployed our product in their data centers and they know it well. They depend on it and have confidence in it. But, we have demanding customers and we have to be on top of our game. They've said, 'Hey Intel, you haven't done quite enough' in the past.

Did we lose some ground over the last year? We did. But we think the Woodcrest processor and this new core architecture line has huge price and performance per watt advantages, and we are getting rave reviews. Some of our harshest critics on Wall Street are now some of our biggest fans. With dual-core in the rearview mirror, what are Intel's plans for multi-core products?

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Graff: We were the first to demo quad-core back in February, so we think we are well ahead of the competition on that. We are on schedule to release a quad-core processor, code-named Clovertown, in early 2007.

Performance used to be measured solely on gigahertz and architecture. Now, it's architecture, frequency and number of cores. The benefit of several cores is that you can increase performance more dramatically while not increasing power. So factoring core count into the performance equation is important. What are Intel's plans for VT, your virtualization technology, in the chip set?

Graff: Woodcrest is enabled with Intel VT, and we are looking at enabling all chips across the line with VT. We think it is pretty important because now that you have more horsepower with dual- and multi-core servers, you can do more on your computer. If you can do more, you may want to virtualize and create virtual partitions for that workload. We think adding hardware capabilities can really help because the software can't see everything on the chip without this type of assistance.

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