The chip maker is presenting a paper that will delve into some of the technical aspects of Nehalem, from its integrated memory controller to how the individual cores work.
Intel is offering a chance to peek under the hood of its new "Nehalem"
and get a glimpse at some of the technologies it's using,
including its approach to saving power and transferring data from one chip to
At the VLSI Symposia held June 17 to June 20, Intel
will present a new paper June 19 called "Next Generation Intel Micro-architecture
(Nehalem) Clocking Architecture," which will offer an account of some of
the new technologies and innovations going into this particular
The first of the Nehalem processors for servers and high-end desktops will
likely debut in the fourth quarter with more chips based on the architecture
entering the market by the first half of 2009. The first of the Nehalem chips
will include four processing cores.
In describing Intel's research paper, Rajesh Kumar, an Intel Fellow and director
of Circuit and Low Power Technologies for the company, dwelt on two aspects of
Nehalem: the integrated memory controller and a feature called QuickPath, which
allows the processors to connect to another component or another chip on the
"Here, the path to memory and the path to the chip are all integrated
into the CPU itself," Kumar said during a briefing before the start of
conference. "The reason we are doing this is to get much lower latency to
memory and much higher bandwidth to memory. The numbers we are going to achieve
with Nehalem are 25GB per second for socket-to-socket communication and 32GB
per second for going to main memory."
Kumar added that this means Nehalem is about three times faster than other
chips in the market. In this case, Intel is referring to Advanced
Micro Devices' Opteron processors,
which have used integrated memory
controllers and high-speed interconnects for a number of years.
For years, Intel lagged behind AMD in
these types of technologies, which allowed AMD
to gain market share, especially for high-end multisocket servers where higher
bandwidth is a must. Although it's too early to say for certain if Intel will
catch up with AMD, the chip giant is
certainly moving in that direction and its customers can expect more details
later in 2008.
"I would say that this paper is the beginning of a rolling thunder
campaign that will last at least through the end of this year and only let up
once all of Intel's Nehalem processors have been launched," said John
Spooner, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "During this time,
the company is going to begin building the case for Nehalem to be the
highest-performing x86 chip in history, with huge benefits in performance per
watt for servers in particular. Intel is betting big on Nehalem and it wants
the processor family to be well received. So it's working to begin building
interest in the platform."
Since the Nehalem architecture will be used across an array of product
segments-servers, desktops, notebooks-Kumar said Intel engineers had to
consider how they could change the structure of the chips to fit within these
different segments. They made the processing cores modular so the cores could
be easily switched out to meet the needs of different products.
Intel also decoupled the main components, allowing the voltage and the clock
frequencies of the different parts to be set independently of one another. This
allows Intel to design chips off the same basic architecture that can offer
energy efficiency for one product and high performance for another.
"The CPU core, for example, can be running at its own frequency and
voltage while the memory system is running on its own and I/O is running on its
own and each of them can be tuned for a different segment," Kumar said.
"This idea itself is not new, but the implementation is new," he
added. "So far, most have tried to do this with asynchronous interfaces,
which happen to be fairly slow ... so the main innovation here is to do this in a
synchronous fashion, which is very low latency and [offers] high
Finally, Kumar said Nehalem will adjust to the type of applications a system
is running and will adjust its frequency to the power it needs to run these
different pieces of software.
Intel did not say what clock speeds the Nehalem chips will offer. The paper
also did not detail the exact power envelope these processors will have,
although Kumar noted that Nehalem
gives Intel the ability to integrate a graphics core into the processor.
Intel is expected to give full details about Nehalem
at its Developer Forum in August.