The third member of the Itanium chip family, announced Monday, is the company's best shot to date at taking on Sun and IBM in the market for high-end server processors.
With "Madison," Intel is hoping the third time's a charm.
Madison, the third member of the Itanium chip family, is Intel's best shot to date at taking on Sun Microsystems and IBM in the market for high-end server chips. If the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker succeeds with its ambitious plans, the higher end of the $43 billion server market will be remade around Itanium the way the lower end now centers on Intel's Xeon chips.
The chip debuted Monday under the Itanium 2 name, along with new versions of the Xeon processor for midrange servers. Madison offers roughly 50 percent better performance over its most recent predecessor, according to Intel, and is already rated highly against the best chips audited benchmark tests.
But just as importantly, Intel and its allies have finally begun attracting broad support from server makers and the software companies. By the end of the year, there will be more than 50 different Itanium 2 systems on the market.
Similarly, the software customer base is expanding. More than 400 programs, including Windows, SAS Institute's business analysis software, SAP's accounting software, and Oracle's 9i database software, have been ported to Itanium 2. Customers using Itanium 2 in pilots or for actual work include Sun America, Agilent Technologies, British Petroleum and BMW.