Intel Offers Details Of Core Successor 'Nehalem'

The quad-core processors are expected to debut in gaming PCs and ship in the fourth quarter, along with processors for two-socket servers code-named Nehalem-EP.
Intel on Tuesday released details of its new series of microprocessors (code-named Nehalem), which will replace the existing Core microarchitecture line and is scheduled to start shipping in the fourth quarter.

Patrick Gelsinger, senior VP and general manager for Intel's Digital Enterprise Group, made several technical disclosures for Nehalem during his keynote at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, which runs through Thursday. Among the key details was power management technology that would start with Nehalem and continue in future generations of processors.

"Turbo mode" incorporates new "power-gates" technology from Intel that can turn individual cores on or off, depending on the workload demand. As a result, in a four-core Nehalem processor, for example, two cores could be shut down if only two are needed for a given task. This boosts overall power to performance ratios.

The new power management technology is transparent to the operating system, offers ultralow leakage, and makes it possible for cores to run at independent voltage and frequency.

Other advancements in Nehalem include and on-die memory controller and technology called the QuickPath point-to-point interconnect. Both boost performance by reducing memory access time and enabling faster routing of data.

In addition, Nehalem will have virtualization technology called VT-d that Intel claims will double the performance of virtual machines running on the platform. VMware plans to release in 2009 new technology called VMDirectPath that will take advantage of the new capabilities in Nehalem.

Overall, Nehalem offers three times the memory bandwidth of the previous generation of chips and twice the performance of 3-D animation, Gelsinger said. Nehalem is built using Intel's latest manufacturing process, which shrinks the size of transistors on a piece of silicon to 45 nanometers. Increasing the number transistors on a die translates into higher performance without increasing power consumption.

Intel announced this month that the first Nehalem processors would be desktop chips called Core i7, which will use the x58 chipset. The quad-core processors would target gaming machines and ship in the fourth quarter, along with processors for two-socket servers code-named Nehalem-EP.

Nehalem-based chips for servers with more sockets, as well as for more mainstream products for desktops and notebooks, are scheduled to go into production in the second half of 2009. The server processor has a code-name of Nehalem-EX, the desktop products Havendale and Lynnfield, and the mobile chips Auburndale and Clarksfield. The products will run the gamut of high-end processors to chips for budget systems.

Also shipping in 2009 is a new Nehalem-based mobile platform code-named Calpella, which will be the successor to the current Centrino 2 platform.

Gelsinger also said that Intel's six-core Xeon processor for multisocket servers will launch in September. These processors will be based on the current Core 2 microarchitecture.

Gelsinger was followed by Dadi Perlmutter, executive VP and general manager of Intel's mobile platforms group. Perlmutter launched a mobile chipset called the GS45 Express for the Centrino 2 platform. The GS45 has a smaller footprint then the current GM45, making the former better for smaller mobile Internet devices. The new chipset measures as small as six-tenths of an inch square, which is nearly half the size of the smallest GM45.

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