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The bell tolls for "Nehalem" when Intel's clock strikes next in 2008
More details of Intel's next-generation architecture unveiled

Intel's "tick tock" development cycle continues to chime with the Nehalem processor architecture scheduled for production next year. Intel Senior Vice President Pat Gelsinger detailed the advanced features on the next-generation to DailyTech earlier today.

In the second half of this year, Intel will release its first 45nm Penryn-based processors.  While nearly identical architecturally to the Core 2 Duo processors released last year, Penryn's 45nm node allows Intel to put more L2 cache onboard; the company already announced Penryn-based processors will utilize up to 12MB of L2 cache on quad-core designs.

Intel's 45nm node utilizes metal transistor gates and high-k dielectrics.  The departure from silicon-based transistors translates to a 5-fold reduction in source-drain leakage and a 10-fold reduction in dielectric leakage.  According to Intel guidance, this means existing processors could run 20% faster just by switching to metal gate and high-k transistors.  Gelsinger claims mature Penryn processors will operate in excess of 3 GHz per core, with 1600 MHz front-side busses on server platforms.

After the 45nm shrink has matured, Intel will then incorporate architectural changes into its processor family, currently dubbed NehalemNehalem is still a 4-issue architecture similar to Core, but new advances in management and scalability give Nehalem its new micro architecture designation.

Earlier this year Intel roadmaps stated Hyper-Threading would appear on some Penryn processors.  Shortly after, Intel retracted the roadmap, stating that simultaneous multi-threading will not reappear until 2008.  This was made evident today when Intel unveiled its next-generation threading plans for Nehalem.

High-end server Nehalem-family processors have eight cores. Coupled with 2-way threading, these processors appear as 16 logical CPUs.  This threading is dynamic: Threads can be powered on and off depending on the application needs.

Dynamic threading isn't the only on-the-fly operation for Nehalem.  Almost everything about Nehalem can be dynamically managed: Power, threads, bus, cache and cores.  This management is primarily a power-saving feature, but also allows for saleable designs as well.

The bulk of these changes are possible due to Nehalem's on-board memory controller.  AMD realized the advantages of integrated memory controllers (IMCs) with the introduction of its Opteron series processors four years ago.  Intel has long toyed with with IMCs on some processors, and will even deliver the Tolapai system-on-a-chip later this year with an integrated memory controller.

Intel's dynamic bus, the Common System Interface (CSI), is clearly a focal point for the Nehalem architecture.  With many respects, CSI is very similar to HyperTransport: Variable, serial interconnects for processor-to-processor communication.  CSI will not only make its debut on Nehalem, but design engineers have also confirmed to DailyTech that CSI will have a large presence on next-generation Itanium platforms as well.

Intel leaves a single teaser in its Nehalem design guidance: "High performance integrated graphics engine for client."  Speaking on background, Intel insiders stated "The majority of the Intel Northbridge is already on the Nehalem die, so adding the final logic to include graphics is essentially [trivial] with the correct bus support."  Intel's renewed interest in graphics processing came just weeks after AMD made similiar announcements, which AMD has codenamed Fusion.

In addition, Intel will also expand the SSE4 instruction set.  Other architectural tweaks include shared multi-level cache.  AMD's upcoming Barcelona processors share L3 cache between cores; Intel's last NetBurst processors shared L3 cache, but no current Core processor utilizes such functionality.

Gelsinger emphasizes that Nehalem is on track for production in 2008.

Intel's "tick tock" strategy doesn't end at the 45nm node.  In 2009 Intel will optically shrink Nehalem process from 45nm to 32nm.  In a sense, it's the same move Intel is currently undertaking with the transition from Conroe to PenrynNehalem's 32nm shrink is dubbed Westmere.  The 32nm architecture that will succeed Westmere is dubbed Gesher.

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RE: AMD is Effed
By archcommus on 3/28/2007 6:21:34 PM , Rating: 5
You say this as if you know AMD does NOT have a bright future. You have no idea how well Barcelona will perform, and how quickly AMD might follow to 45 nm and possibly a refresh architecture late next year.

RE: AMD is Effed
By Roy2001 on 3/28/2007 6:31:58 PM , Rating: 2
Be frankly, we all have no idea, unless you are working on AMD new quad-core project.

RE: AMD is Effed
By dcalfine on 3/28/2007 6:35:05 PM , Rating: 2
You are correct, I don't know about AMD's future. I implied that when I said that intel has planned theirs out. Given that I don't know what AMD has planned out, intel's future looks brighter.

RE: AMD is Effed
By bikinistud on 3/28/2007 6:35:35 PM , Rating: 2
I totally agree that we don't know how bright AMD's future is but if the Core 2 can compete with the current line up and they are going to include CSI and an IMC, AMD will have to come up with some major improvement that Intel hasn't thought of. Barcelona doesn't contain any major, new, component that hasn't already been tried on other chips before. A few tweaks here and there, plus L3 cache but how much help will this really add up to?

I just hope Fusion can out-pace whatever Intel is trying to develop, for all consumers sake.

RE: AMD is Effed
By MrBungle123 on 3/28/2007 6:43:39 PM , Rating: 4
If AMD continues to fumble around like they have lately they will be in big trouble. Considering their track record for the past year going from a 2.8GHz Dual Core to a 3.0GHz Dual Core processor is not much of an improvement. Rebadging a server platform and calling it "QuadFX" wasn't in any way shape or form the "advancement" they hyped up up to be, it more shows me that they are desperate to keep up and needed to manufacture a new label to get some attention. You could have done the same thing by dropping modern video cards and latest round of Opteron processors into Maximum PC's Dream Machine 2005.

I really want to see barcelona come out swinging, we need competition in the CPU market. But given AMD's current pace im not sure it will be enough. They will need to have barcelona's architectural successor up and ready to go in a year or they will be in the same position they are now... one process technology and one architecure behind.

RE: AMD is Effed
By encryptkeeper on 3/30/2007 10:38:49 AM , Rating: 2
AMD has been lacking in the last couple of months as the K8 architecture has been brought to an early death by core 2, that's probably the only fact that anyone sane could agree on. We never know what will happen with Intel or AMD but it's already been said that Intel took heavy hits in the profit department in Q3 or 4 (can't remember) of last year and AMD will have to step up production when Barcelona comes out. AMD is also stuck facing a cheap, well received chip that many people have in their systems, and not as many people will jump on upgrading to Barcelona unless it's VERY cheap and MUCH better than Core 2. Intel finished Core 2 and fired 10000 employees, no doubt many of those that were fired did serious development work on the Core 2 project who are now possibly working for AMD. When it comes time to redevelop an architecture, Intel probably won't be able to make as large a leap as Core 2.

RE: AMD is Effed
By viscount02 on 3/31/2007 2:52:24 AM , Rating: 2
Dude.. STFU. you don't know your facts so shut up. Intel fired most of the non-essential people-- like 1,000 managers and people from marketing. They cut projects that were just sucking the life and limb out if intel. I KNOW there were software developers who did jack squat.

encriptkeeper, You do not know what you are talking about.

AMD is in trouble. Barcelona will get its L2 cache(essentially its buttocks) handed to itself when penryn shows up. MCM with onboard memory controller and northbridge on die means dark times for AMD.

RE: AMD is Effed
By defter on 3/29/2007 5:42:49 AM , Rating: 5
Actually, anybody that has followed AMD's statements recently have a pretty good idea on those issues:

- based on AMD's Barcelona peformance claims, it's very, very likely that Barcelona will be slower in the desktop (1S) compared to Penryn based quad cores that will be able to reach 3.6GHz in Q1 2008.
- AMD has stated that they plan to have 45nm chips available in mid-2008. Thus they will be at least 6 months behind Intel. However, considering AMD's delays with previous process transitions, it's likely that 45nm process will be delayed to late 2008.
- AMD has always disclosed details about future architecture improvements well in advance. Athlon details were disclosed in 1998, almost a year before launch. K8 details were disclosed in Autumn 2001, 1.5 years before Opteron launch. Last summer AMD disclosed Barcelona details, more than a year before availability. So far there has been zero information about AMD's architecture improvements scheduled for the next year, there haven't been any rumours let alone official information. Thus, it's safe to say that there won't be anything drastically new (45nm shrink doesn't count) from AMD in 2008.

RE: AMD is Effed
By Viditor on 3/31/2007 11:37:32 AM , Rating: 2
based on AMD's Barcelona peformance claims, it's very, very likely that Barcelona will be slower in the desktop (1S) compared to Penryn based quad cores that will be able to reach 3.6GHz in Q1 2008

This is incorrect...
1. Even a K8 core on a quad core configuration is faster than C2D. That's already been benched (in a roundabout manner). The benchmarks show that a 2P dual core Opteron is about the same as a Clovertown (QC), and we know from when Opteron went dual core that it gains ~5% when the cores are placed on the same die. A 4P Opteron is ~16% faster than a 2P Clovertown...

2. Barcelona is to be 42% faster in FP and "double digits" faster in integer than Clovertown, but the K10s that follow Barcelona in Q3 (still before Penryn's release) will be even faster as they will be using HT 3.0 (unlike Barcelona).

3. We still have no idea how high the K10s will clock yet...

However, considering AMD's delays with previous process transitions, it's likely that 45nm process will be delayed to late 2008

This is a ridiculous thing to's like saying Nehalem will be delayed by 3 more years because Itanium was.
AMD has always disclosed details about future architecture improvements well in advance

Firstly, most of those examples were about Jerry Sanders and AMD, not Hector.
Secondly, even if that bizarre logic holds true, we shouldn't see any architecure announcements until July for the 45nm...that will be 1 year before release.

RE: AMD is Effed
By Ralph The Magician on 3/29/2007 2:16:03 PM , Rating: 2
AMD is about 6-9 months behind in process. If they really want to get back in the game, at least in terms of profits, they are going to have to eitehr SKIP a process or Intel is going to have to get stuck on a process long enough so that AMD can catch up. The latter is more likely, because that's something that happens fairly often in the industry, but Intel is really working to keep their lead.

RE: AMD is Effed
By Ralph The Magician on 3/29/2007 2:25:43 PM , Rating: 2
And IMO, AMD needs to focus away from high-performance consumer CPUs. They should focus more on Opteron which STILL scales better than Xeon. That's where the real strength of an integrated memory controller lies.

With their recent aquisition of ATI they can also create a nice integreated budget platform and CPU.

Truth is, AMD has never been too good at the high performance desktop/workstation game. Even when they would take the CPU performance crown they still lacked the chipsets and a standardized, modern, in-house platform. Kind of a shame that now that they FINALLY have the ability to do that, they are the furthest behind in the performance game then they have probably ever been. :-\

"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay
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