Dell Computer Corp has released details on its first Itanium 2-based server, a two-way PowerEdge server available with Intel Corp.'s new Madison Itanium 2 processor.

Intel is expected to release Madison next Monday, but Dell unveiled its PowerEdge 3250 server on Wednesday in a conference call for media and analysts. Up until now Dell had conspicuously held back from introducing an Itanium 2 server, but it is now committing to the technology, spurred by the pending release of the new and improved version of the processor, said Darrel Ward, a product manager with Dell.

The company finally decided to adopt Itanium 2 in a server because of the price/performance ratio offered by the new Madison version of Itanium 2, Ward said.

Madison is expected to come with a larger Level 3 cache, at up to 6M bytes, and will run at speeds up to 1.5GHz. It will also be marketed under the Itanium 2 brand, the same official name as the 900MHz and 1GHz versions of the processor, code-named McKinley announced last year.

The PowerEdge 3250 is designed to be clustered in groups of eight nodes and more with Red Hat Inc.'s Enterprise Linux operating system package, and customers will also be able to use Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition with the new server. It will come with up to 16G bytes of memory and up to 292G bytes of internal storage, Ward said.

Dell will announce pricing and availability once Intel has made its formal Madison announcement, Ward said. He declined to comment on whether Dell would release an Itanium server with more than two processors in the near future.

The McKinley version of Itanium has been slow to gain traction among enterprises despite favorable performance reviews. Hewlett-Packard Co. and Unisys Corp. were the only major vendors to support the McKinley processor until IBM Corp. released its x450 server in April.

In order to take advantage of Itanium 2's performance characteristics, IT managers need to port their applications to Intel's new Itanium processor instruction set, known as EPIC (explicitly parallel instruction computing). This effort has caused many potential customers to refrain from adopting Itanium 2 systems, preferring to keep their most important applications in place on large Unix machines or clustered servers based on Intel's x86 Xeon processor rather than embarking upon a significant coding project.