Intel made its first foray into the world of x64 computing this week when the company released the first Intel microprocessors to take advantage of the massive 64-bit address space. Intel's new x64 Xeon chips are compatible with earlier 64-bit processors from AMD, including the AMD Athlon 64 and AMD Opteron. Servers based on x64 processors can mix and match 32-bit and 64-bit OSs and applications, all of which run at full speed.
"Availability of Intel's new server platforms with Extended Memory 64 Technology \[EM64T\] marks an exciting milestone that will accelerate customer adoption of 64-bit computing," Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the Windows Server Division, said. "The performance and scalability benefits of 64-bit Windows Server 2003 and SQL Server 2005 on Intel Xeon processor-based systems enable Microsoft and Intel to deliver the benefits of 64-bit technology while providing customers investment protection and an easy migration path from today's 32-bit applications."
The new Xeon processors feature Intel's EM64T technology, which the chips use to address far more memory than the 32-bit designs' 4GB limit. Intel has also added unique features to its designs in a bid to differentiate them from AMD's processors. For example, the new Xeon processors feature Demand Based Switching with Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology to dynamically adjust the processor's power use.
Intel is also shipping new Intel E7520 and E7230 chipsets, which support high-end memory and PCI Express, for its x64 processors. The new Xeon chips currently top out at 3.6GHz, although versions are available starting at 2.8GHz, Intel says. Yesterday, several PC makers, including Dell, HP, and IBM, unleashed server systems that feature the new processor and chipsets. The missing factor is Windows. Although Microsoft is currently beta testing an x64 version of Windows 2003, the final version of that product won't ship until early 2005 at the earliest. So customers who purchase x64-based servers today will receive the currently available 32-bit version of Windows Server.