After two years of delays, Intel has launched its Itanium server processor and re-drawn the road map for its only chip not to use an x86 core.

The company said its new chip -- with 2 billion transistors -- will perform twice as fast as its previous Itanium chip, while boosting scalability and reliability.

Intel argues that the new chip will be more attractive to enterprises and scientists as it now shares components with its more popular x86 counterparts.

The Itanium 9300, now includes Intel's QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) and other common infrastructure seen in its Xeon line of server chips. The new CPU also links to DDR3 memory.

That entire memory buffer chip didn't exist a year ago and now it's a core part of the architecture, said Kirk Skaugen, general manager of Intel's data center group.

The switch to DDR3 caused a year delay in releasing chip, he added. Intel last released an Itanium chip in 2007.

Skaugen also said Intel will be able to put eight microprocessors together in a single server system. With each processor having 4 cores -- or computing brains -- systems based on the new Itanium can have up to 32 cores.

Martin Fink, senior vice president of Business Critical Systems at Hewlett-Packard, said his company will likely make announcements about computers using the Intel 9300 series chips.

Other supporters include Bull, Inspur, NEC, Hitachi, and Supermicro. Fink said early results show performance is 2 to 9 times better than that of existing systems.

The chip is built using a 65nm process. Intel said it will follow the Tukwilla with a 32nm version dubbed Poulson in two years. Few details were revealed, except that it will have more cores memory and  enhancements.

About two years after Poulson, Intel plans a follow on called Kittson. 

Both will fit into the Tukwilla socket, use DDR3 and be compatible with Tukwilla, Skaugen said.

The 9300 runs at data rates up to 1.73 GHz and sells for $946 to $3,838 depending on configuration and quantity.