How Does The Intel Itanium 9300 Compare With The Competition?

It is always refreshing to look back at what the Itanium range was suppose to bring to humanity and the world of computing; the epic project was supposed to generate sales of $37 billion in its third year, by 2001.

So far, Itanium sales have all but failed to live up to the initial expectations of the two main backers, HP and Intel. One can even question whether the project has indeed broken even given that HP & Intel started the development of IA-64 seven years before the first Itanium CPU was released.

The 10th version of Itanium, Tukwila or Itanium 9300, has been released and is born into a world that is very different from when Merced first launched. Apart from PA-RISC and the DEC Alpha Family, the Power architecture, the X86 and the SPARC family are still alive and (more or less) kicking.

The Power7 is likely to be a formidable competitor to the 9300. IBM has just published the SPEC CPU2006 performance for the chip and they are impressive.

The 8-socket, 64-core system which can play with 256 threads at 3.86GHz, resulting in an SPEC2006 int_rate/fp_rate score of 2530 and 2240 respectively (ed: SPEC was the only widespread benchmark we could find at this level).

In comparison, the previous generation Power6 scored only 2155 and 2184 in the two aforementioned benchmarks while sporting 32 dual-core processors (that's four time the number of sockets) and a clock speed of 5GHz.

As for the Fujitsu SPARC64 VII, this quad core processor can handle two threads on up to 64-sockets (that's 512 threads in all per server) with a maximum clock speed of 2.52GHz.

The top of the range M9000 delivers SPEC int_rate/fp_rate of 2586 and 2103.

The next version, Venus SPARC64 VIIIfx, is set to push the performance barrier even further with 256 threads per socket (8 cores x 8 threads), a 128GFLOPS performance and using a 45nm manufacturing process.

It was already available as a prototype last year and let's hope it will be available soon.

We don't have the benchmark for the Itanium 9300 but Intel said that the performance would be more than twice that of the previous "Montvale" generation. What does that give us?

A 128-socket, 256-core computer handling 256 threads (SGI Altix 4700 Density System, Itanium 9040 1.6GHz, 18MB cache) is able to yield 2971 and 3507 mark on SPEC2006 int_rate/fp_rate.

Does that means that a similar configured Tukwila platform would be able to smash the 6000 and 7000 SPEC2006 int_rate/fp_rate mark?

Highly unlikely and it is also quite interesting to see that an x86 system like the Dell PowerEdge R905 (24 cores running at 2.6Ghz, costing £12819+VAT) has a SPEC2006 int_rate/fp_rate mark of 400 and 276. By comparison, the cheapest Power7 systems, a 32-core model, costs at least $101,000 direct from IBM.