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Engineers blame simulation for quad-core "showstopper"

More than a few people noticed Intel's roadmap originally slated 45nm Penryn desktop quad-core processors for January, only to have the company change the hard launch date to a not-so-firm "Q1 2008." So what happened?  In a series of interviews, the tale of quad-core Penryn began to unfold. 

Processor engineers, speaking on background, detailed the problem. "Intel is very sensitive to mean time to failures.  During a simulation, at high clock frequencies, engineers noticed an increase of potential failures after a designated amount of time."

He continues, "This is not acceptable for desktop customers that require longterm stability. It's a showstopper."

Previous reports of errata degrading the L2 and L3 cache performance were described as "false" -- desktop Penryn processors do not even have L3 cache. Microcode and BIOS updates issued by Intel since November do not fix or address the "showstopper" bug affecting the launch of the quad-core Q9300, Q9450 and Q9550 processors

The condition does not affect Xeon quad-core processors.  Xeon uses a different stepping than the quad-core processors, which fixes this simulated condition.  The quad-core 45nm Extreme Edition processor launched in November is also unaffected.

The company would not detail when the processors, originally scheduled for a January 20 launch but announced at CES last week, will see the light of day. Conservative estimates from ASUS and Gigabyte put the re-launch sometime in February.  Intel completely removed its January 20 launch from its December 2007 roadmap and has not issued a new roadmap since. 

Intel spokesman Dan Snyder says more. "We publicly claimed we will launch its 45nm mainstream processors in Q1 2008, and that's exactly what we did."  In fact, the company announced 16 new 45nm processors last week; most of which already shipped to manufacturers -- with the exception of the quad-core desktop variants affected by the showstopper simulation bug.

Taiwanese media was quick to pin the simulated problem on complacency and lack of competition from AMD.  Intel employees quickly denied the allegation, with the additional claim that the report was "humorous." 

At CES last week, Snyder elaborates.  "The tick-tock model prevents Intel from missing its launch dates.  If the 'tock' team misses a target date, it doesn't affect the 'tick' team."

Tick-tock, the strategy of alternating cycles of architecture change and process shrink, became official company policy on  January 1, 2006. 

As to why the new Macbook Airs still use the 65nm Core 2 Duo processors? Even after Foxconn alluded the new notebooks would get 45nm treatment?  Another Intel spokesman declined to respond, only stating, "Our partners are free to choose any of Intel's currently supported processors."  Anand Shimpi explores this more.

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RE: I call BS
By eye smite on 1/16/2008 1:41:05 PM , Rating: 2
I'm certainly glad to see everyone raising as much hell about this as they did the errata in phenom. Will it snowball and get worse like the reviews and reports did with phenom, I doubt it. Everyone believes intel can do no wrong and amd is the red headed step child. Where the real tripping step is starts with everyones expectations and perceptions. So what if intel had some errata. So what if amd had some errata. Companies hit stumbling blocks, just wait for them to resolve it and mature the product. Ya know, like Ford did with the tip over easy Explorer.........

RE: I call BS
By TomZ on 1/16/2008 1:56:45 PM , Rating: 1
Everyone believes intel can do no wrong and amd is the red headed step child.

I disagree. While Intel has been performing very well for the past couple of years, there are enough well-informed people analyzing each step they make, to where if they make even any small mistakes, they're going to get called on it.

Also remember, web sites like DT exist at least in part to capitalize on the interest and publicity surrounding missteps by big tech companies. So you can be sure they'll be published here and elsewhere.

RE: I call BS
By eye smite on 1/16/2008 2:08:19 PM , Rating: 2
That still doesn't change the problem of everyone's expectations and perceptions.....

RE: I call BS
By DigitalFreak on 1/16/08, Rating: -1
RE: I call BS
By edborden on 1/17/2008 6:29:58 PM , Rating: 1
How can you draw a comparison when AMD shipped everyone product that HAD the errata, while Intel is claiming to HOLD BACK product for the same reason.

RE: I call BS
By mindless1 on 1/21/2008 11:29:11 PM , Rating: 2
We can draw a comparison because Intel has in the past also shipped product with errata, it's all a matter of whether (either) company catches the problem in time to stop shipments or not. Don't think it won't ever happen again from either camp.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser

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