Intel Readies Six-Core 'Westmere' Server Chip

At the ISSCC show next week, Intel officials will talk about their upcoming 32-nm "Westmere" processors for servers and clients, including a six-core version for two-socket servers and high-end desktops. Intel is looking to refresh its entire server lineup, not only with Westmere processors but also with the upcoming Nehalem EX chip and the next-generation Itanium processor, called "Tukwila." AMD and IBM also are getting ready to release new server products.

Intel is looking to quickly expand the number of its 32-nanometer "Westmere" processors, and will offer a six-core version for both two-socket servers and high-end desktops.

In addition, the company will roll out a dual-core chip for mainstream desktops and mobile PCs.

Intel will present papers on the upcoming Westmere offerings at the International Solid State Circuits Conference 2010 show, which runs Feb. 7-11 in San Francisco. Intel officials gave a preview Feb. 3 of what they'll talk about.

Intel rolled out its first Westmere chips Jan. 7 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, unveiling more than two dozen 32-nm chips that fell into the Core i3, i5 and i7 families for desktops and laptops.

A week later, CEO Paul Otellini, during a conference call to announce the company's fourth-quarter financial numbers, said Intel not only would release the 45-nm "Nehalem EX" chip for high-end servers, but also refresh its entire server line with Westmere products this quarter.

During the Feb. 3 press conference, Nasser Kurd, senior principal engineer for Intel's Architecture Group, filled in more details about the upcoming Westmere processors, which he said essentially are 32-nm versions of Nehalem.

Many of the features in the six-core Westmere chip mirror those found in the other 32-nm processors, including Turbo Boost-which enables users to scale up the power in individual cores depending on workload demand-Hyper-Threading and an integrated memory controller.

The six-core chips will contain 1.17 billion transistors and 12MB of cache, 4MB more than the current Nehalem processors.

There are some differences. The "Gulftown" six-core chip for desktops won't have integrated graphics. Instead, users-the Gulftown chip is aimed at high-end desktops such as those used by gamers-will have to buy discrete graphics cards.

In addition, there are new power management features, including the capability of powering down individual cores. The use of DDR3 and low-voltage DDR3 memory also will help reduce power consumption.

"We continue to push on power management capabilities," Kurd said.

The Westmere server processors also include AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), a feature that enables faster encryption and decryption.

The first half the year will see a flood of new server processors. Along with the new Westmere and Nehalem EX processors, Intel also has started shipping its long-awaited next-generation Itanium processor, dubbed "Tukwila." The official release of the chip is expected to be Feb. 8.

Rival Advanced Micro Devices, meanwhile, is planning to launch new versions of its Opteron processor. AMD this year will release "Magny-Cours," a high-end chip for servers with two to four sockets that will offer up to 12 cores, and "Lisbon," which will have up to six cores and will be aimed at servers with one or two sockets.

IBM also is getting its Power7 processor ready for release.