Tokyo’s NEC Corp. announced in the final days of November that it will ship a 16-way Itanium server in the second half of 2000. Itanium is the new brand name for the next-generation Intel processor that was code-named Merced. A prototype of this powerhouse server, code-named AzusA, is up and running at an NEC lab in Fuchu, Japan. The name AzusA comes from the Azusa river, which runs down Mt. Yarigatake in Japan’s Chuba Sangaku National Park. Merced is also the name of a river—in California’s Yosemite National Park; thus, this Japanese vendor simply localized the server’s name. AzusA is the product of a joint venture between NEC and Microsoft. As a result, AzusA will run 64-bit Windows 2000 (Win2K), which Microsoft intends to ship in 2000. NEC also has another prototype of the machine running a SQL Server database at Microsoft in Redmond. NEC is developing a proprietary chipset for AzusA. The company will divide the 16 Itanium chips among four separate 4-CPU boards. One 16-way machine can run as one mega-sized server or as four separate servers, each with its own OS. AzusA aims only at the high-end corporate consumer market. Rumor has it that the interconnect-crossover architecture is similar in design to the Profusion chipset, which appears in models based on Intel’s standard 8-way architecture. General specifications for AzusA are impressive. NEC promises 64GB of memory using non-uniform memory access. AzusA’s bus configuration can use either sixty-four 66MHz PCI bus drives or one hundred twenty-eight 32MHz PCI bus drives. All the PCI bus drives have hot-swap capability. The NEC 16-way machine is one of the first servers to take full advantage of Itanium’s 64-bit architecture. Microsoft has been working on 64-bit Windows and designing it to take advantage of Itanium’s architecture. Other vendors are also taking the 64-bit leap, but NEC has chosen Microsoft’s product, and the AzusA running 64-bit Win2K looks like it might be the first system out of the gate. Microsoft has advertised 64-bit Windows as providing “high availability, advanced scalability, and large memory support.” If the NEC 16-way server functions as the company claims it will, then AzusA will represent the proof-of-concept for DataCenter Server as a developing enterprise standard. Intel hasn't released any official word about Itanium’s clock speed, but industry insiders estimate that the chip will run at speeds of 600MHz, 755MHz, and 955MHz. The Itanium chips will support either 2MB or 4MB Level 3 cache and will have about 400 registers. For more information on Itanium, see Intel’s Merced Gets Branded Itanium.