By 2007 Intel will move its Itanium and Xeon processors architectures to a common system platform. This plan could provide bigger margins for resellers if Intel succeeds in repositioning its high-end 64-bit Itanium as a mainstream replacement for the current Xeon server CPU.
Intel is planning to bring the two lines together by creating a unified 64-bit motherboard with a new, "one-size-fits-all" socket
"We're working with OEMs like HP, IBM and others to develop one system that will support either Itanium processors or Xeon processors," says Jason Waxman, director of multiprocessor marketing for Intel's Enterprise Product Group. "A reseller will be able to configure whatever they need with just one platform box. You can put either Xeons or Itaniums out to the customer."
"It's a lot of flexibility," Waxman added. "But in order for us to do it, you have to design one motherboard that supports both. It has to be a socket that supports either type of processor and a bus architecture that supports both. It has been something that customers have been asking us for for a while now, and we now see a path to get there by 2007."
"Today, Itaniums don't fit into Xeon boxes, and Xeons don't fit into Itanium boxes," Waxman says. "So the reseller has to have an inventory of both boxes on hand."
Long term, the plan could eventually spell the end for Xeon because by 2007 the extra cost of upgrading to Itanium"as measured on a price/performance basis" is expected to be insignificant or nil.