While the big news of Intel's Spring Developer Forum was the announcement of plans to release processors with 64-bit extensions, the company used yesterday's keynotes to offer details about the Itanium processor family.

The Nocona Xeon processor will debut at 3.6GHz in the second quarter with support for 64-bit extensions technology, said Mike Fister, senior VP and general manager of Intel's enterprise platforms group. As previously reported, it will also come with 1MB of L2 cache, an 800MHz front-side bus and support for three operating modes: pure 32-bit mode, a combination 64-/32-bit mode and a pure 64-bit mode, he said at the San Francisco event.

64-bit extensions
The Xeon MP server processor line will also receive the extensions technology enhancement next year, Fister confirmed, but it will take more time to validate the new technologies with large, multiprocessor servers.

As many have speculated, Intel confirmed that it has embedded the extensions technology into the Prescott core that was recently released as the newest Pentium 4 desktop processor and can therefore turn it on when the market is ready, said marketing manager Ajay Malhotra.

Prescott-based processors with the extensions technology will be released later this year for workstations and single-processor servers, but Intel is not yet disclosing the brand identities of those chips, he said. Server and workstation processors are the sole focus of the extensions technology for now, Malhotra said.

Itanium 2 technologies
The standard Itanium processor for multi-processor servers will have two cores in 2005 with the introduction of Montecito. Fister revealed a few details about the Bayshore chip set that will come with Montecito. Bayshore makes use of a faster front-side bus, DDR2 (double data rate) memory and PCI Express, he said.

Montecito includes two new technologies, Pellston for new cache-reliability technology, and Foxton for the new multi-core, multi-threaded approach, both reported yesterday, but a couple more details have emerged. Pellston allows the chip to detect errors in the cache memory banks and shut down the compromised parts of the cache before they can cause problems, Malhotra said. Foxton is a method of temporarily boosting the clock speed of a multi-core processor to take advantage of unused execution units, he said.

Xeon and Itanium to cost the same
Further down the road, Intel plans to level the platform costs of Xeon and Itanium so, after purchasing the chip, it will cost a server vendor the same to build chipset and peripheral components for either Xeon or Itanium servers, he said. Right now, an Itanium server costs more to manufacture.

Once more, Intel invited OEMs to boost the message with HP, Dell and IBM professing support for both the Itanium processor and Intel's 64-bit extensions technology. IBM already sells with AMD Opteron-based severs with similar extensions technology.