With Intel's decision to move aggressively into a market segment that has beforehand been dominated by Sun, SGI and others they are faced with a number of hurdles to overcome to even be considered a player. Whereas SGI and others have long since adopted Intel CPUs in their workstations their machines werenít particularly of the garden variety, they usually come at a price premium and usually feature first grade parts and performance.
One of the hurdles Intel was thus faced with is price versus performance, in order to compete in the high-end workstations segment they have to have a solution thatís both affordable and performs equal or better than that of the competition. The Xeon DP platform looks to have all things going for it if we look at the specifications and prospective performance charts.
Another thing thatís important when looking at Intelís approach and that of the competition is the simple fact that the ramp up in clockspeed for IA-32 CPUs versus that of RISC CPUs as used in, for example, Sunís UltraSparc is much more aggressive. As a result of that the RISC CPUs are lagging in terms of raw performance even though they may be more efficient and powerful per clockcycle then their IA-32 counterparts.
Other aspects that work in the IA-32 CPUís favor is the fact that many of the often used professional software packages has been ported to x86 or have been specifically developed to run on x86. Furthermore, the Xeon DP can profit from the latest advances made in, for example, graphics accelerators, whereas other workstations are not easily upgraded and feature proprietary hardware. This is a big plus given the current advances made by Nvidia and others were we see a new graphics card every 6- or 8-months offering almost twice the performance and a host of new features. Most of the high-end workstations are deployed in the graphics creation or manipulation field, and having a fast graphics accelerator is a big plus, and really cuts down on costs and ups efficiency.
Fig 3. The Intel Xeon DP CPU, notice the components mounted on the PCB for power decoupling and filtering.