Intel, AMD to Continue Raising Chip Core Count

At the Hot Chips conference in August, Intel officials will talk about the processor code-named Westmere EX, which could include up to 10 cores per chip. For its part, AMD will discuss its upcoming platform code-named Bulldozer, which will offer up to 16 cores per chip.

Dell officials say the company is shipping of tens of thousands of PowerEdge servers powered by the latest high-end processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

Intel's Xeon 7500 Series "Nehalem EX" chips offer up to eight cores per processor, while AMD's Opteron 6100 Series "Magny-Cours" chips hold eight to 12 cores.

Sally Steven, vice president of Dell's Server Solutions business, boasted that Dell has been the first to ship servers powered by the high-end chips, saying in a statement June 21 Dell "is providing leading-edge technologies to spur further adoption of x86 server solutions while other vendors protect legacy server investments and expensive software and services contracts."

However, as Dell and other OEMs work to bring new servers powered by the high-end chips to market, Intel officials already are starting to get information out about the next-generation processors due in 2011.

Some of that information will come out at the Hot Chips conference at Stanford University, in Palo Alto, Calif., Aug. 22 to 24. On the show's second day, Intel researchers will present a paper titled "Westmere-EX: A 20 Thread Server CPU."

Westmere EX will be the follow-up to Nehalem EX, which is designed for servers with four or more sockets. While Nehalem EX is a 45-nanometer chip, Westmere EX will be built on Intel's 32-nm process.

Intel officials have said Westmere EX will be faster and have more cores than its predecessor, though they have not elaborated. Currently, each core in the Nehalem EX processors can run two instruction threads simultaneously, for up to 16 threads per chip.

With 20 threads per chip, at the same ratio, Westmere EX, which is scheduled for release in 2011, could be a 10-core processor.

Intel already has released processors for PCs and two-socket servers based on the Westmere architecture.

AMD officials at the show will discuss AMD's upcoming "Bulldozer" architecture, which is expected to drive up the number of cores from 12 to 16.

Intel and AMD will continue adding cores to their processors in an effort to increase chip performance and energy efficiency, and to keep up with Moore's Law through means other than cranking up the frequency.

The increase in performance in the chips, particularly those from Intel, is driving the x86 architecture into high-end computing environments to run workloads that traditionally have been run on RISC chips from the likes of Oracle/Sun and IBM, as well as Intel's Itanium processors, found primarily in Hewlett-Packard servers.

Demand in such areas as HPC (high-performance computing), cloud computing and Web-based companies with large server farms-such as and Google-also has given rise to other alternatives, such as using graphics processors from the likes of Nvidia and AMD's ATI business for some parallel-processing workloads. Startups also are coming onto the scene with server architectures aimed at handling the smaller, and many, workloads typically found at Internet-based companies.

SeaMicro came out of stealth mode June 14, showing off its SM10000 server powered by Intel's Atom chips, which were created for netbooks and are being pushed by Intel into such areas as smartphones. The SM10000 can scale to up to 512 processors.

Tilera, a chip company, already has processors that can scale up to 64 cores, and is planning one for 2011 that will grow to 100 cores per processor.