Intel has launched a new, faster version of its Xeon processor MP chip for multi-processor systems, codenamed Gallatin.

With a 3.0GHz clock speed and 4MB of level three (L3) cache, the fastest version of Gallatin, originally launched in November 2002, will have twice the cache of its 2.8GHz predecessor and deliver as much as 24 percent more performance compared to previous Xeon MP chips, Intel said.

Intel will provide two other versions of Gallatin, according to Richard Dracott, Intel's general manager of enterprise marketing and planning - 2.7GHz and 2.2GHz versions with 2MB of L3 cache. "What we're doing here is essentially breathing new life into a platform that's been around a few years," he said, referring to the Xeon processor family.

The new chip is a significant improvement for the Xeon line, said Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata. The doubling of on-chip cache increases the performance of multi-processor servers running commercial applications such as transaction processing, he said, by storing frequently used data in a repository close to the chip's execution units so that it can be processed faster than data stored in memory.

But the improvements to the new chip are overshadowed by Intel's decision to bring 64-bit extensions technology to its Xeon DP processors for one and two-processor servers. The new Xeon MP chip does not include the 64-bit extensions, which are planned for the next scheduled release on Intel's road map, codenamed Potomac.

Intel is positioning Xeon MP as a platform for database, application server and enterprise resource planning application consolidation.

Several vendors are expected to offer systems based on the new Xeon MP chips, including Unisys, which starts shipping its ES7000 systems with the chips in April. HP currently ships 4-way and 8-way ProLiant DL560, DL580, DL740 and DL760 servers based on the new processors.

IBM is now shipping the processors in its xSeries 255, 365 and 445 systems, with two-processor configurations priced at US$7,358, $15,599, and $18,617, (£4,008; £8,497; £10,141) respectively. The company is also shipping the new Gallatin chips in its HS40 blade servers, with a base price of $12,359 (£6,732) for a dual-processor system.

Effective Tuesday, Dell will ship PowerEdge 6650 and 6600 4-way servers based on the new Xeon MP processors. Single processor systems based on Intel's top-of-the line 3.0GHz chip will start at $7,499 (£4,085). A single-processor PowerEdge 6600 based on the 2.2GHz processor will start at $4,999 (£2,723).

Intel lists the 3.0GHz Xeon MP for $3,692 (£2,011). The 2.7GHz and 2.2GHz versions list for $1,980 and $1,177, (£1,079; £641) respectively.