The impending launch of Intel's Nehalem processor in Q4 2008 already has the hardware community buzzing. Nehalem has already shaped up to appear quite the performance beast. With the power of eight logical cores (four physical, doubled by hyper-threading) built on a 45 nm process to leverage, it’s shaping up to be a strong offering.
The new processor will feature QuickPath, Intel's answer to AMD's HyperTransport, an on-chip memory controller, SSE4 instruction support, and an 8 MB cache pool. Chips have already been demoed running at 3.2 GHz, so early indications are that Intel has had relatively little process problems.
Now Intel has made an important move towards the eventual release of Nehalem by giving it its official brand name. The processor will be branded "Intel Core" with an "i7" identifier for the first round of chips. This brand will include an Extreme Edition at launch according to Intel. It is also expected to launch to both the desktop and server markets, though the server line may come slightly later than the desktop lineup. Intel is also cooking up mobile versions of the processor.
In months following the launch, other products with different identifiers will be announced according to Intel. Intel says that its focus with the line is to both up the performance over its previous successful dual and quad core offerings. At the same time it hopes to cut the power usage significantly.
Sean Maloney, Intel Corporation executive vice president and general manager, Sales and Marketing Group says that focusing on the "i7" line is Intel's top priority. He states, "The Core name is and will be our flagship PC processor brand going forward. Expect Intel to focus even more marketing resources around that name and the Core i7 products starting now."
Intel will maintain a numbered system similar to its past "Intel Core" offerings to differentiate individual processor models.
Another significant advance for Intel is that all the chip's cores will be on a single piece of silicon. AMD has been using this method for quite some time, but Intel declined in order to improve yields. The chip will face off against AMD's upcoming Shanghai processor.
Meanwhile, the Penryn platform, while passing the torch to Nehalem will see a bit of new life of its own, thanks to the Dunnington platform which will place 3 dies for a total of 6 cores in a chip package and target the server market.
AMD plans to release a six-core version of Shanghai to combat this beast. A 12-core dual-die package version of Shanghai is thought to be in the works, and Intel is likely considering either a dual-die Nehalem with eight cores or consolidating Dunnington to a single die and releasing a dual-die variant with 12 cores to combat this.
Intel is also focusing significant attention to its upcoming line of discrete graphics processors, code-named Larrabee.