Intel Cranks Up The Clocks

Intel has begun briefing its system partners on a processor rollout schedule driven by an impressive array of server technologies, including an 800-MHz chip, that are all intended to run complex mission-critical applications. Following the introduction of its 500-MHz Pentium III Xeon processor, code-named Tanner, on March 17, Intel will drive speeds of the high-end server processor to 800-MHz by the middle of next year, according to sources close to the company. And with the release of the Profusion eight-way chip set shortly after the Pentium III Xeon is introduced, corporations can rest assured that Intel-based platforms will be powerful enough to handle most of their needs.

"When you move to the real business world doing ERP [enterprise resource planning], customer service, and heavy transaction processing, the power of the chip is important because speed is the key," said Karim Salem, vice president of information systems at Puma Technology, in San Jose, California. "When I chose to go with the Intel platform two years ago, I felt comfortable that it would be able to support Fortune 500 companies. I'm betting that I won't have to change platforms."

CPUs That Live in Glass Houses
Two immediate goals of Intel are to further the adoption of Intel platforms for glass-house applications traditionally associated with RISC systems and mainframes, and to give customers a clear upgrade path to the 64-bit Merced processor due in late 2000. "They're moving well into the realm of what had been the RISC players' arena," said Rich Partridge, an analyst at D.H. Brown Associates in Port Chester, New York. Some analysts said they believe that given the allure of standards-based hardware, Intel is in a good position for the midrange and high-end server market.

"Over time, everybody is moving toward a standardized hardware platform, and in the next ten years that could be Intel," said James Gruener, a senior analyst at the Aberdeen Group in Boston. "The common market misconception is that everything is going to be focused on the [Windows] NT market. But there is a significant UNIX-on-Intel market that continues to grow."

Therefore, the heat is being applied to the big RISC-based server vendors such as Sun Microsystems, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard. "The RISC guys can't sit back," Partridge said. "They need to be just as aggressive because Intel doesn't want to be at the mercy of Microsoft."

Desktops Moving to 733-MHz
While Intel relentlessly pursues the high-end server market, it will continue to drive speeds on its desktop and mobile CPUs as well. According to sources close to Intel, speeds for the Pentium III desktop chip will increase from 450 MHz and 500 MHz at launch on February 26 to 733 MHz with a 133-MHz front-side bus by mid-2000. Following the mobile Pentium III announcement this September and the addition of 0.18 micron technology, mobile processor speeds will top out at 600 MHz by the end of this year, then jump to 700 MHz in the first half of 2000. With speeds this fast, Intel intends to significantly close the power gap between desktop and notebook processors.


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