Intel Takes The Heat Off Its Chips - InformationWeek
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2/3/2005
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Intel Takes The Heat Off Its Chips

Intel introduces power-saving technique for Itanium that can speed up or slow down chips' clocks.

As the center of gravity in processor design shifts from building speed in to getting heat out, Intel's engineers are planning new ways to keep their chips cool.

The world's No. 1 semiconductor company this week will unveil a power-saving technique for Itanium chips called Foxton Technology that can speed up or slow down chips' clocks, depending on the demands of the software they're running. Foxton-enhanced chips can step their voltages and frequencies up or down in tiny increments, which can deliver performance boosts without consuming more electrical power. That's important as the excessive heat generated by today's power-hungry processors causes side effects that can sap the benefits of faster clock speeds. "Performance at any cost is becoming history," Ram Krishnamurthy, a research manager at Intel, said in a conference call with reporters last week.

Intel will publish the details of Foxton in a paper it's presenting at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference this week in San Francisco. It will also describe power-saving technology called demand-based switching that works with Windows to reduce energy consumption when a server isn't stressed. Both technologies will debut when Intel releases its next-generation Itanium chip, code-named Montecito, scheduled for release in the fourth quarter. Montecito chips will be the first 64-bit Intel chips to use two processing cores on a single silicon die, a design that improves performance while keeping the chips cooler.

As the tiny electrical components on chips shrink to ever-smaller sizes, keeping the undesirable effects of heat at bay is becoming crucial to delivering the performance gains that make new products marketable. Intel also faces a tough fight against Advanced Micro Devices Inc. in the market for powering 64-bit computers.

According to Intel, Montecito chips with Foxton Technology will deliver substantial improvements on some performance benchmarks, including up to a 10% boost on the TPC-C test, which measures how quickly a computer can read and write information to and from a database.

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