Intel's Gelsinger Envisions Gradual Rollout of Nehalem Processors

Intel Senior Vice President Patrick Gelsinger says that new Intel processors based on the upcoming Nehalem microarchitecture will have a gradual rollout in the marketplace, with new processors for high-end desktops, workstations and single-socket server systems coming first. Just before the Intel Developer Forum, AMD said its 45-nm "Shanghai" processors would beat Nehalem into the market for two- and four-socket server systems.

SAN FRANCISCO-Now that Intel has detailed its new Nehalem microarchitecture, the question remains when the first of the processors built around this new chip architecture will hit the enterprise space and the wider consumer market.

To date, Intel has revealed that the first of the Nehalem-based processors, the Intel Core i7 chip, will enter the market in the fourth quarter of 2008 for high-end desktop and gaming PCs before switching to desktop workstations and then single-socket server systems.

From there, processors for the two-socket systems will land before the second half of 2009, with parts for the four-socket space to follow, Intel Senior Vice President Patrick Gelsinger told eWEEK at the Intel Developer Forum here. One reason for this gradual rollout of Nehalem-based processors, Gelsinger said, is to allow OEMs to build new systems and allow for extensive testing and a long validation process for IT shops interested in the new processors.

"We have bettered the core and extended our cache architecture, and we also now have a dramatic system architecture upgrade with the integrated memory controller, three channels of DDR3 [double data rate 3 memory], [and] three times the memory bandwidth with half the memory latency," said Gelsinger.

Before IDF, Advanced Micro Devices held a series of events to announce that its upcoming processors built on a new 45-nanometer manufacturing process-the processors are code-named Shanghai-will beat Intel's Nehalem into the two- and four-socket server space, with the first of these processors heading to OEM partners by the end of 2009.

AMD also plans to deliver a new server platform-Fiorano-in 2009.

The reason AMD made several announcements before this year's IDF is that the company has enjoyed an advantage in the multisocket server space for years with Opteron, especially with AMD's use of the integrated memory controller. With the Nehalem architecture, Intel will also bring an integrated memory controller into the market and eliminate the front-side bus, which should give these processors a performance boost without a dramatic increase in clock speed.

In an interview at IDF, Gelsinger declined to directly respond to the AMD charge that Shanghai will beat Nehalem into the market. Gelsinger did note that the Nehalem product cycle remains on schedule and that the chip maker's Dunnington processor-a six-core, 45-nm processor-will fill the void in the multisocket server space until Nehalem-based parts arrive in 2009.

These other Nehalem-based processors include one chip for high-performance computing dubbed Nehalem-EP and a number of desktop chips with the code names Havendale and Lynnfield, as well as notebook processors with the code names Auburndale and Clarksfield.

"With Nehalem, it is more work for our customers and our OEM partners as they build up systems," said Gelsinger. "We are on track for what we said, and when you have major new system designs, there is a longer validation cycle and a longer ramp into the marketplace."

The six-core Dunnington processor is due in September.

The fact that it will take longer for Intel to bring Nehalem into the market compared with the 45-nm Penryn chips that came out at the 2007 IDF meant that this year's IDF lacked a blockbuster announcement.

In the months leading up to IDF, Intel released many of the details about Nehalem, including details about the integrated memory controller and the chip-to-chip interconnect. At the same time, since Nehalem-based chips are coming out in the fourth quarter, Intel held back on releasing prices, clock speed and specific benchmark results.

The other major announcement going into IDF was the release of some of the details behind Larrabee, which will give Intel a footprint in the discrete graphics market. Gelsinger said that Intel plans to deliver the first Larrabee silicon into the hands of developers by the first half of 2009.

Editor's note: This story was updated to clarify the schedule for the roll out of Nehalem-based chips for two-socket systems in 2009.