Date: July 24, 2002
Among the most humorous and enjoyable Inquirer articles of late, I have to give this one the top prize for 2002 (so far).
Nebojsa Novakovic provides a very detailed analysis of a prototype 4 processor Itanium 2 system that he has had for testing since March of 2002. Doesn't sound like an article filled with humor, right? Well, lots of people tell me that I am weird - and on a regular basis.
The system, as described, contains bits of humor that only a full time amateur computer architecture fanatic would find entertaining. For example, there is this tidbit copied directly from the text. "The SNC connects to 4 DDR Memory Hubs or DMH". Not funny yet? Well then read this direct quote as the explanation. "..E8870 SNC actually has quad Rambus channel memory interface". Okay, I'll spell it out. Intel's most advanced - and as yet unreleased - quad Itanium 2 server uses a very, very advanced chipset that supports Rambus memory. The server division has designed a type of memory translation device that couples this Rambus interface to 4 way multiplexed (or interleaved) DDR SDRAM. Are we laughing yet? Well, this is 'really damn fast DDR SDRAM'.
Okay, how about this very, very neat quote - "I have run 64-bit Red Hat Linux 7.2 and Windows .NET 64-bit limited edition (whatever that means) on this system - both are Itanium-native, but not Itanium2-optimised distributions." This is great stuff folks. Never mind Goldmember. It's just more of Mike Meyers' delightful revival of vaudeville. Stick to your old recording of Beatrice Lilly singing "There are fairies at the bottom of my garden". Beatrice was an all-time fab performer. Heck, I saw High Spirits 5 times.
No, the answer is "Where are the other operating systems that should be available to run on Itanium 2?" Just an early beta of .NET? No Win2K or XP Pro? Oh, the future is .NET, right.
Now I have only the greatest admiration for Intel's server design group. I cheer loud and long when I see the noble designs that they regularly produce. Too bad that NONE of their achievements EVER filter down to the mass market. Heck, 4-way or 8-way interleaved DDR SDRAM sounds like a nice idea to me. After all, nVidia has demonstrated 2-way interleaving already - in the mass market - in its 'bad, old, nForce' last year. With more of the same to come. But if you read every sentence of this article carefully, you will also discover that Nebosja does have a superb, if subtle, sense of humor also. Try the second paragraph - first sentence. Perhaps not proper use of English slang, but it works for me. The language must evolve. Life is change.
Except for the Intel policy, embedded in granite, of one memory system serving multiple processors via an all software or a hardware/software thread management scheme, this system is a great design. I would not mind plugging four DDR SDRAM modules of 256 mB size into 4 slots (4-way interleaved) on some future nForce system design. Even if this sounds like a venture beyond the 'safe side of cost effective mass market design policies', it could SELL STUFF. And the stuff it would promote is the kind of stuff that supports the wide range of performance needs of major corporations in high tech wins - where a company can make a big name for itself with Fortune 500 users. Not a bad idea. There are always companies that want to buy lots of workstations for a variety of uses, uses that include a wide range of different subsystems - plain IDE hard drives for simple stuff and IDE RAID for faster basic work as well as SCSI RAID for critical stuff. And the trend is toward ONE proven motherboard design that works will with many levels of add-on subsystems. This purchasing strategy greatly simplifies hardware maintenance chores.
And be sure to make a gold-plated heat sink for the big boss's system. Yes, platinum oxide would have far more prestige but gold LOOKS NICE. Leave the plain old black anodized brass or silver alloy heat sinks for 'the masses'.
I don't need one, but I still would like just to have a "Quadrics Elan supercomputing interconnect" for boasting rights. Yes, this article does have good reads and much that will give you insights into the direction Intel is taking with its high end designs. One might even call this a Mirror of Erised for us masses - and larger masses (including me, but I am THINKING about dieting).
So consider taking time for a high end design tutorial and give a read to this classic Inquirer material. No, I don't get any compensation of any sort from The Inquirer or any of its staff or related business associates. Not even a darn t-shirt. I am waiting for one with a picture of an old guy carrying a lamp - who is looking for something quite rare.
just an old man
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