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Monday, February 13, 2006, 08:00 am PT (11:00 am ET)

Intel to ship quad-core server chip in early 2007

Intel expects to ship its first processor with four cores in early 2007, a high-ranking company executive said on Friday.

The new chip, code-named Clovertown, will include four processing cores to process data more quickly and run multiple application processes simultaneously, all while using less power than a single-core design, Intel CTO Justin Rattner told reporters on Friday.

The new chip will join Intel's line of server chips, dubbed Xeon, which have proven to be a lucrative business for the world's largest chip maker, generating billions in revenue. However, the business has recently come under pressure from Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD, which has entered the server market with its own line of chips called Opteron.

In proving the Clovertown chipset is well along in its development cycle, Rattner demonstrated a working server with a pair of the new microprocessors, but declined to say whether all four cores are on a single die, or if Clovertown would use two dual-core chips stuck together.

"We are well along in the validation process of this new design," he said in an interview on the company's Web site. "It has been showing such robust performance we decided that it was time to let people see it."

Rattner said Intel will release the chips, which will be manufacturered on a 65-nanometer processes, in early 2007 — possibly starting revenue shipments as early as late 2006.

Rattner also predicted that within the next ten years, a single chip will have tens or even hundreds of cores. "It's kind of like how many angels can you fit on the head of a pin?" he said. Still, the exec acknowledged that there are significant challenges in breaking beyond eight or 16 cores milestone, such as how to provide enough system memory or teach developers to take advantage of the new features in their software applications.

News of Clovertown may be of interest to Apple followers, as there has been very little (if any) news on the company's plans for its Xserve enterprise servers moving to the Intel platform.

The last significant update to Xserve line came over a year ago, in January of 2005, when Apple updated the servers to dual 2.3GHz PowerPC G5 processors.