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Intel will open up its server platform

This week at IDF, Intel made an official announcement on its response to AMD's Torrenza technology. AMD made waves earlier this year when it announced that it would open up its Opteron platform to the industry, allowing other manufacturers to create and develop add-in components that communicate directly with the system processor and memory. Going beyond that, AMD also mentioned that Torrenza would allow companies to create accelerators or co-processors that could be used directly in an Opteron socket.

Intel said that like AMD, it also plans to open up its chipset platform technology. The move would be an unprecedented move for Intel, as it has been guarding its platform for the longest time. Intel's primary goal is to introduce an alternative to AMD's HyperTransport. The technology would allow devices to communicate on a much faster pathway than PCI Express alone could muster. Interfacing directly with the front-side bus (FSB), devices will be able to communicate directly to the processor and or other accelerators. Non-Intel chips will be able to plug into a Xeon socket for example, and work parallel to the main processor or processors.

With the introduction of an open FSB platform, Intel will also be making a move towards integrating memory controllers directly onto processors. This is something that AMD has been doing for several years with the original Opteron processor. DailyTech previously reported that a number of large companies were already partnering with AMD to create accelerator and other co-processors. The decision to open up its platform has propelled AMD into the enterprise market in very large way. It will be interesting to see what Intel's move into an open space will do for the industry.

Currently, the technology is expected to be introduced sometime in the next one to one and a half years. Some analysts speculate that Intel will show off an open FSB specification in 2008 on Itanium, and on the Xeon sometime in 2009. Reports say that Intel is currently working with several companies to create co-processors -- they too would be able to plug directly into a Xeon or Itanium socket.

This week, Intel also announced several updates to its product family. The first being that Kentsfield will now be called Core 2 Quad, which it promised to ship one million units before AMD could ship a single one. Other interesting developments from Intel include two new 45nm fab locations as well as a strong push into tera-flop computing research.

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By Lazarus Dark on 9/27/2006 10:33:44 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think this will work until intel moves away from its current fsb system. Or am I wrong? would this be able to compete with hypertransport or be a poor substitute?

RE: fsb
By HopJokey on 9/27/2006 10:46:14 PM , Rating: 2
This could pave the way for when Intel introduces it's point to point bus (CSI) with it's next generation x86 product, code-named Nehalem (CSI is also planned on it's next generation Itanium product, code-named Tukwila). First Nehalem based processor should ship sometime in 2008 if all goes planned.

RE: fsb
By Jharne on 9/28/2006 6:54:57 AM , Rating: 2
CSI has been a moving target for some time, Intel need to deliver it this time.

RE: fsb
By Motley on 9/28/2006 12:53:19 PM , Rating: 2
No, they need to keep waiting and improving it, and only release it 6 months before it's really needed. I don't really want a whole new architecture for the measly 2%-4% speed bump it'd give today. I'd rather they spend their efforts like they have, concentrating on the 20-30% speed bumps without a massive architecture change.

Granted, eventually the large speed bumps without an artitecture change will become more and more difficult, to the point where the greatest gains could be gotten from an architecture change, but that time isn't today.

RE: fsb
By Justin Case on 9/28/2006 4:48:26 PM , Rating: 2
Performance improvements are always needed. 10% faster systems can mean 30% higher profits, in some businesses. There's no such thing as "6 months before it's really needed". It's "needed" yesterday.

I fail to see how frequent updates are a bad thing. Between a company that releases a 30% faster product after 3 years, and another that releases a 9% faster product every year, I'll take the latter. It might be 0.5% slower in the last year, but it kept me ahead of the game in the previous two.

The problem with Intel is they keep changing sockets, changing chipsets, changing memory types, etc.. And that's what AMD finally figured out, with their "stable platform" initiative: if they commit to a platform for 5 years, that gets them support from the enterprise segment. Most companies (apart from a handful of IT mega corporations) couldn't really care less about Torrenza. But every company likes to know that the servers they buy today will be upgradable in 3 or 4 years, and won't have to be completely replaced because mighty Intel decided that everyone should jump onto a new, untested, more expensive, and sometimes slower platform.

That is why AMD is growing in the server space, and is likely to keep on growing (unless they seriously screw up). Intel is going to need at least another 16 months to catch up in terms of interconnect technology (which is the major issue in the enterprise server space), and that's assuming its management doesn't shoot itself in the foot, as it did so often in the recent past. Netburst is what happens when you let the marketing department run a technology company.

RE: fsb
By Dactyl on 9/30/2006 5:50:03 PM , Rating: 3
You only get a big benefit by changing your architecture if your old architecture sucked (e.g., Netburst).

AMD can't just pull a rabbit out of its hat and get a 40% performance increase/40% power decrease by changing its architecture, because its architecture is pretty good.

It will have to get the increases the hard way (smaller processes, moving to quad core, K8L extensions, on-die L3 cache). This is very similar to how Intel improved the performance of its P4 chips before it finally got rid of them (smaller processes enabled higher clockspeeds, dual core with Pentium D, added HT, boosted cache sizes). (and I mean no disrespect to K8 by comparing it to P4!)

That said, as we move into the future, with smaller and smaller processes and better interconnect, radical new design approaches (e.g., mini cores) might start to make sense. I doubt mini-cores would have made sense when CPUs were being manufactured at 180 nanometers, like the first P4s.

Evolutionary improvements to those new architectures will not only make them better (faster, more performance per watt) the chipmaker will also learn how to further optimize future processors. If a chipmaker completely turned its back on evolutionary improvements, it could end up making radical new designs with many of the same minor flaws as in old designs.

RE: fsb
By Viditor on 9/28/2006 11:48:22 AM , Rating: 2
First Nehalem based processor should ship sometime in 2008 if all goes planned

First CSI for Itanium (Tukwilla) should be the end of 2008, first CSI for Xeon (Nehelam) is slated for early 2009. That said,
1. I don't believe they have worked out the bugs yet, so it's still not a lock...
2. The proposed open platform model is for FSB, not it wouldn't work on CSI platforms.
3. Your point is quite relevant but for the opposite reason...if the new open platform is adopted, then it won't be ready until CSI is near completion (rendering it useless).

My guess is that Intel is wisely not putting all of their eggs in one basket this time. They are adopting this model in case CSI doesn't work...JMHO

RE: fsb
By Phynaz on 9/28/2006 12:39:08 PM , Rating: 2
2. The proposed open platform model is for FSB, not it wouldn't work on CSI platforms.

Nope. The proposed open platform model is based upon PCIe.

RE: fsb
By Viditor on 9/28/2006 7:59:56 PM , Rating: 2
The proposed open platform model is based upon PCIe

From Anand's article:

"In another example of a string of Intel following AMD's lead, Gelsinger announced extending Intel's FSB license to FPGA manufacturers like Xilinx so that companies can produce other chips that can work alongside Intel processors with a direct FSB connection to the MCH"

RE: fsb
By Phynaz on 9/29/2006 9:21:16 AM , Rating: 2
The FSB isn't open. PCIe is open.

From the same article:
Intel and IBM got together and proposed an extension to PCI Express that would offer both higher bandwidth and lower latency. Since PCI Express is already an industry standard embraced by all sorts of manufacturers, the evolutionary move to another PCI Express based interface makes a lot of sense and is more likely to gain traction than requiring vendors to produce HTX compatible solutions.

RE: fsb
By Viditor on 9/29/2006 11:47:54 AM , Rating: 2
Notice the difference there...

"Intel and IBM got together and proposed an extension to PCI Express..."

"Gelsinger announced extending Intel's FSB license to FPGA manufacturers"

Intel is hoping to do both...but the PCIe proposal is not going to directly connect to the cache and would have a much higher latency...

RE: fsb
By Phynaz on 9/29/2006 2:25:05 PM , Rating: 2
Note your original post where you stated the proposed open platform is FSB.

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