Intel accelerates 32nm processor plans

The world's largest chip company is moving its focus to the next-generation designs faster than it had planned
Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

Intel has announced a major update to its 32nm next-generation processor plans, revealing substantial new details on its chip roadmap and outlining a $7bn investment in new plant.

The first 32nm processor, code-named Westmere, will be in production by the fourth quarter of 2009. It will arrive in a dual-core, four-thread format suitable for desktops and notebooks, the company said in a conference call on Tuesday.

The design initially will also include a 45nm integrated graphics and memory controller as part of a multichip package, with this component moving to 32nm — and possibly fully integrated — in 2010. The same year will see the arrival of Gulftown, a six-core, 12-thread chip for desktops, as well as the first Westmere-based Xeon server chips.

Intel announced that as well as moving integrated graphics and memory into the main processor, it was moving all remaining chipset functions into a single chip, the Intel 5 series. With the Intel 5, motherboard makers could build PCs with all the logic components in just two chips.

"We have excellent health on Westmere," an Intel spokesperson said. "We were thrilled with the first silicon, and were able to boot and run applications on the very first wafers. We have enough confidence that we're accelerating the 32nm ramp in the mainstream."

The spokesperson also said that a version of the chip would be demonstrated later on Tuesday in San Francisco. 

Intel said the 32nm process was the first to use immersion lithography, a new technique where some production takes place in water, with design patterns shrunk by refraction.

Westmere is substantially the same architecture as the existing 45nm Nehalem chip, shrunk to the new 32nm process. Seven new instructions have been added, the company said, to support accelerated encryption and decryption suitable for communication and hard disks. The next major update, Sandy Bridge, will have a new architecture that will span the next process transition to 22nm.

In support of these moves, the company said it was spending $7bn (£4.8bn) over two years across four chip-production sites in the US.


Intel 32nm

Intel's first 32nm processor will have a 45nm graphics and memory controller on a separate chip but in the same package
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