At a press gathering this morning, Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Digital Enterprise Group, revealed details about a next generation processor, Nehalem, which brings an entirely new microarchitecture (and motherboards), and will include onboard memory and graphics controllers.
Nehalem-based desktop, server and mobile processors and systems are slated to be available in 2008. The Nehalem effort is part of Intel's strategy to step up its chip cadence.
"The new systems architecture is a major shift is system architecture, and a stunning value proposition," Gelsinger beamed. "It's the biggest leap since the Pentium Pro [which reached the market in 1996]." It's also a big shift for those who create memory and graphic controllers, such as AMD, which just acquired ATI.
"We will integrate the memory controller on the die, with both a buffered and native version," Gelsinger explained. For many years, AMD's claim to fame has been its integrated memory controller, which helps to reduce latency. "We have the best memory hierarchy on planet today," Gelsinger said in response to a question about AMD's HyperTransport processor design approach. "The best cache is more important than an integrated memory controller, which is why Intel wins on benchmarks."
On a technical front, each core utilizes two threads and the chips are designed specifically for the 45-nanometer process, unlike the Penryn family due later this year that was a bridge between 65 and 45 nanometer. Nehalem designs are underway with eight cores, and two thread each, Gelsinger said, and the processors will exist in the same thermal envelope as previous generations.
For software developers, Gelsinger said, "Nehalem system server applications are very throughput-oriented already and will take full advantage of the simultaneous multithreading. On client systems, we have been on a multithreaded focus since 2000, when we launched hyperthreading. Now we are reaping the benefits and seeing good parallelism in games, media and even in things like Microsoft Office 2007, but it is still heavy lifting to move the software community together to take advantage of threading."
Gelsinger also outlined the Penryn family of processors, due in the second half of this year, that are based on the 45-nanometer Hi-k process technology and high-k + metal gate transistor design. In plain English, the Penryn family, which will include six processors (dual and quad core Core and Xeon systems for server, desktop and mobile) means chips that are faster and more energy efficient.
The 45-nanometer processors will have 820 million transistors, and the dual core die size will be 25 percent smaller than the 65-nanometer equivalent.