With the launch and excitement of Intel's
Silverthorne-based Atom processors behind it, Intel is turning its sights
to the more salient and profitable next generation architecture for desktop,
server, and mobile processors. Intel used the Spring IDF 2008 as a showcase for
its Nehalem processor architecture.
Intel's Nehalem is
truly a radical architecture departure from Intel thanks to its integrated
memory controller that will support triple-channel DDR3-1333 memory. This won't be the only design element taken almost verbatim from AMD's playbook; Intel also plans to incorporate the new QuickPath Interface on Nehalem. QuickPath is almost identical in spirit and implementation to AMD's current interconnect technology, HyperTransport.
The first available Nehalem
processors will be built on the existing 45nm manufacturing process, will
incorporate SSE4 instructions, and will feature four fully integrated cores. Each core will have
its own dedicated 256KB L2 cache and each core will share an 8MB of L3
cache pool. The bulk of these 731 million transistor processors are dedicated to cache.
Event demonstrations at the Shanghai Intel Developer Forum, occurring now until the end of the week, show A1 silicon Bloomfield-based Nehalem
processors at IDF at a speedy 3.2 GHz.
Like the 533 MHz variants of Intel's new Silverthorne-based Atom processors, Nehalem will also incorporate Simultaneous Multithreading (SMT)
which is also known as Hyper-Threading (HT).
Intel senior vice president Patrick Gelsinger confirmed that Xeon MP versions of Nehalem will eventually incorporate eight cores per processor, one upping the current Penryn-derived Dunnington processor the company plans to announce later this year. These octo-core Nehalem processors will also use the newest iteration of Hyper-Threading, bringing the total count to 16 threads per chip. And of course, these processors can be used in quad-socket configurations, bringing the processor market to 64 threads per mainboard.
Current Intel roadmaps peg the Nehalem launch date in Q4 2008, with a simulteanous rollout across servers and desktops. Since Nehalem uses a new architecture and transport bus, existing motherboards will not work with the new processors.