IDF: Intel firms up Nehalem plans
Pat Gelsinger has been firming up Intel's schedule for rolling out its Nehalem family. As previously announced, the first representative of the new processor architecture, which includes an integrated memory controller, four cores on a single die, hyper-threading and, partially, the QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) interface, will be released shortly in the form of the Core i7. Aka Bloomfield, it's intended for high end desktop computers with LGA1366 motherboards and the X58 chipset – Tylersburg-36S. There has been speculation that the processor may be released in October to take advantage of the Christmas sales peak. According to Gelsinger, Nehalem Xeons under the codename Nehalem-EP (previously known as Gainestown) will be released at around the same time. They should offer new energy-saving functions for servers.
These first two representatives of the Nehalem family are likely to remain its only members for some months, as the Havendale and Lynnfield – for mid class desktop computers, Auburndale and Clarksfield – for laptops – and Nehalem-EX Xeon, previously known as Beckton, processors, officially announced by Gelsinger, are not expected to appear until the second half of 2009. The latter are designed for servers with more than two CPU slots. Also intended for two CPU slot servers, this September, Intel plans to introduce the hexa-core Dunnington, with a total of 16 Mbytes of L3 Cache, under the name Xeon X7460 as the successor to the current four-core 7300 series Xeons – Tigerton. Intel's competitor AMD is bringing out its first 45 nm processor, known as Shanghai, to compete with the Dunningtons. The Nehalem architecture will not be available for the large x86 server market for another year or so.
Gelsinger promises new 'turbo' functions for Nehalem processors, which should improve CPU performance – he did not, however, provide any details. This probably relates to an automatic overclocking function for single cores, a feature already available in existing mobile processors and known as Intel Dynamic Acceleration (IDA). So far this feature seems to have provided minimal benefits. A further new function is "user pinning" for Intel's flash-based Turbo Memory, which allows PC users to buffer specific files on their systems using PCIe flash modules. This allows, for example, frequently used programmes to be started more quickly. Although user pinning appears to be something of a makeshift solution, because the ReadyBoost and ReadyDrive functions integrated into Vista have very little, if any, effect on properly configured computers. Intel is, however, always on the lookout for new sales opportunities for NAND Flash memory chips, which it produces in its IM Flash joint venture with Micron and which are used in the new SATA SSDs and previously released cheap SSDs for 'netbooks'.
For more on the Autumn IDF 2008 see also:
- IDF: Fast SSDs
- IDF: Future Xeon servers with extended power management
- IDF: the dual-core Atom for cheap computers is on its way
- IDF: Details about QuickPath Interconnect