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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 FITCamaro on 9/28/2006 11:04:15 AM , Rating: 2
Intel could have done an IMC. They choose not to because it would mean requiring a new socket and new platform. Their attitude is just that its better to have a FSB because it allows more flexibility. And they're right. That doesn't mean FSB is better than Hypertransport though or vice versa. Hypertransport is faster and more efficient no doubt. But it does cause limitations on flexibility and upgradeability.

I'm saying this though as an AMD fan who's currently on an Intel system because at the time, it was the faster of the two platforms. And thats what I care about. Performance. I don't care who's name is on it.


By MonkeyPaw on 9/28/2006 12:24:27 PM , Rating: 4
Well, I think Intel likes to sell chipsets, personally. Yes, they could have introduced an IMC and an HT-like protocal a while back, but that would mean no more "chipset upgrades." Think about how many times a new Intel CPU is incompatible with a current chipset, or that the current chipset requires a revision. Intel is designing both the CPU and the NB, so how can they not anticipate these problems? The only other company who has frequently "revised" their chipsets for new CPUs is VIA! No, if Intel introduced the IMC and HT today, there would no longer be a need for so many different chipsets and so many chipset revisions. They probably couldn't charge as much for the "Centrino" platform either. Instead, we get a new CPU which is often incompatible with current chipsets, then we get an "ideal" chipset launched shortly after. This move burns enthusiasts, but it also encorages OEMs to sell their old inventory with old CPUs.

Before you dismiss my comments as fanboy, consider Intel's x86 SMP solutions. The opteron is pretty simplistic and highly scalable thanks to the IMC's ability to feed each socket, and HT's ability to allow fast communication between CPUs (and most other devices, for that matter). Intel, on the other hand, offers a rather elaborate shared-bus to run even a 2-socket server/workstation. While the results are very convincing, it's still the hard way to do things, and it makes the industry dependent on Intel's solution, which is frequently answered as I mentioned above. If Intel is planning to make "their HT" connect to yet another dedicated northbridge, the scalability problems will not go away. I can see Intel using HT to allow NB-to-NB connections to increase scalability, but that comes at the cost of yet another Intel chip on the board, and it adds to complexity and power demands. It's still not the ideal solution, and at least not as good as a direct connection to the CPU itself. Should Intel adopt a similar IMC and HT as AMD already has, they would eliminate many of their current scaling issues immediately. Until they resolve this, it will be AMD's CPUs going into most of 4-socket and up configurations. AMD has put the server industry on its ear because they have given them what they want. Intel is still not heading in the right direction, IMO.


By encryptkeeper on 9/28/2006 5:54:49 PM , Rating: 3
I work for a PC distributor, and my big problem with Intel is their chipsets. Take a look at Intel's site to see what CPUs work with what motherboards. Socket 775 has been around for about a year now, and its STILL almost impossible to tell what board will work with what processor. Like the difference between the 630 and 631 processor. Alot of the lower end boards will *not* work with the 631. Same thing with the D940. When they went to the D945, it wouldn't work with all of the 945 chipsets like the D940 did. We are constantly pulling our hair out over this crap when we try to configure systems for our customers. I don't care about who has the absolute fastest performance because most of the time you either don't need whatever's the fastest. Processing power is moving so quickly, you'd have to be an obsessive jerk to try and get the absolute fastest thing out there, which I'll admit is Core 2 Duo.

But take AMD. They have a good range of chips still available (single core Intel chips are getting to be a bitch to find) and they have a great unified socket. You take *any* AM2 chip and it's going to work on *any* AM2 board. AMD has even said that with on-chip memory controllers AM3 processors will work on AM2 boards. Holy hell! Think about that! A next generation processor that you can use without having to replace your whole machine??? I'll take AM2 any day over Intel. Plus, they're AMD, they'll gain back whatever lead they lost in terms of processing speed.

With that in mind, think about why Dell decided to go with AMD processors. I'm sure that part of the decision was that their kit designers bitched about how hard it was to configure an Intel system compared to an AMD, and the execs just broke down and gave in to their demands.


By Rob94hawk on 9/28/2006 10:02:12 PM , Rating: 1
Well said. Despite Intel's deep pockets and plethora of resources they are either too dumb or too arrogant to simplify things for the consumer.

Intel reminds me of the US government, all these Ivy Leauge educated people running the show yet they are some of the dumbest people on the planet.


"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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