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x86-based processor debuts at IDF

Posted: 20 Aug 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Nehalem processor  x86-based processor  SoC designs  DDR2 

Intel will launch its 45nm Nehalem processor at its annual developer forum in San Francisco this week. But as usual, IDF will include spot news on a variety of topics. Here's a sampler of some things to expect.

A new media processor—For about a year, Intel has talked about Canmore, an x86-based processor for consumer electronics systems such as STBs. It is part of the company's drive into multi-core SoC designs for a range of computer and embedded markets. Separately, one IDF presentation will detail a software framework for Internet TV. This is probably a fairly minor, open source initiative, but no details were available at press time.

Solid-state drives—Intel has also talked about entering the market for flash-based drives for awhile. Expect some details on its first products at IDF. As last week's Flash Memory Summit showed, a growing range of companies are rolling out SSDs, typically using the serial ATA interface, to replace or complement hard drives in a range of notebooks, desktops and servers.

Graphics—Most of Intel's disclosures about its Larrabee discrete graphics chip for 2010 came out in a Siggraph paper earlier this month. But Intel will share a few more details about the chip and its software support. The company is expected to give at IDF more details about the so-called Advanced Vector Extensions it plans to make to its x86 architecture. It makes sense for Intel to try to make its x86 core a better vector processor to go after jobs served today by custom AMD and NVidia graphics processors.

DDR3—Intel will demonstrate ultradense memory modules using a new controller from start-up MetaRAM that announced its approach on DDR2 memories in February. The start-up can pack as much as 192GB into a server using modules equipped with its controllers. Intel is evaluating the MetaRAM technology for use with its motherboard designs. So far, MetaRAM has gotten some design wins from second-tier PC makers for its DDR2 modules. The DDR3 controllers will be in production by the end of the year.

Other CPU news—Intel will discuss its first quad-core notebook processor at IDF. It will also disclose a new energy-saving feature baked into its new Nehalem chips. A handful of sessions will tackle the more pressing topic of crafting software support that can adequately harness the growing number of cores on PC processors. One session will talk about enhancements to C/C++ for multi-core, presumably discussing Intel's lab work on what it calls Ct. Microsoft will also give a talk on its view on multi-core software.

Archrival Advanced Micro Devices is quick to point out most of the advances in Intel's new Nehalem line—including an integrated memory controller and a cache coherent interconnect—essentially mirror the CPU architecture AMD has been delivering for several years.

"Intel will try to portray themselves as a juggernaut of innovations, but really they are copying many advances AMD made years ago," said Randy Allen, senior VP of AMD's computing group. "Intel will compare their future products with our current ones, but they will neglect to factor in that we will be releasing our [45nm] Shanghai processor by the end of the year," he added.

"Our 45nm program is on or ahead of plan in every dimension including schedule, frequency, operations per clock and yield," Allen added. "We will be delivering server products first and client products later."

Allen would not provide any details about AMD's next big architectural leap, the so-called Fusion chips which will integrate graphics along with x86 cores.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times





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