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Intel 32nm Processor Headed For Production

Sandy Bridge chips, set to go into production in late 2010, are based on a next-generation microarchitecture.
Intel says it plans to start production of processors based on its next-generation microarchitecture, codenamed Sandy Bridge, late this year.

The chipmaker released a few details of its upcoming 32-nanometer replacement for Nehalem at the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing, which ends Wednesday. In addition to discussing Sandy Bridge, Intel unveiled a forthcoming system-on-chip, codenamed Tunnel Creek, featuring an Intel Atom processor core.

Sandy Bridge will be the first Intel microarchitecture to include the company's Advanced Vector Extension to the x86 instruction set architecture. Intel proposed AVX in March 2008 for inclusion in x86 processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

AVX is expected to improve processors' performance in handling floating point intensive calculations in general applications that process images, video, and audio, and in engineering applications that provide 3-D modeling and analysis, scientific simulation, and financial analytics.

Sandy Bridge will replace Intel's current 45-nanometer microarchitecture, codenamed Nehalem. Production of chips based on Sandy Bridge is scheduled to begin in late 2010, David "Dadi" Perlmutter, executive VP and co-general manager of Intel Architecture Group, said during his IDF keynote.

Also at IDF, Intel introduced Tunnel Creek, a SoC for embedded applications, such as smartphones and in-vehicle infotainment systems. Doug Davis, corporate VP and general manager of Intel's embedded and communications group, said during his keynote that Tunnel Creek would combine the Atom core, memory controller hub, graphics engine, and video engine onto one chip.

The new SoC would be the first from Intel to use PCI Express as the interconnect for motherboard-mounted peripherals. Use of the standard will make it easier for Intel partners to connect their own custom-built silicon to the SoC, Davis said. Intel did not provide a release date for Tunnel Creek.

Perlmutter, however, said Intel was on schedule to release in the first half of this year Moorestown. The platform comprises a SoC, code-named Lincroft, which integrates a 45-nanometer Atom, a graphics processor, video, and memory controller; and an I/O hub, code-named Langwell.

The platform will be accompanied by Intel's Moblin operating system, which handles voice calls, and will compete with ARM-based products from Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments.

Intel has been working for several years on developing low-power platforms that will expand its product line from traditional PCs and servers to the faster-growing market for smartphones and other handheld devices, most of which use ARM-based processors today.

As part of that push in handheld computing devices, Intel has partnered with Nokia in developing a mobile operating system called MeeGo, which would run on Intel silicon. The OS combines two Linux-based OSes: Intel's Moblin and Nokia's Maemo. Working with the open source community, the two vendors envision MeeGo devices eventually competing with smartphone platforms from Apple, Google, and Research in Motion.