SAN FRANCISCO—As Intel prepares to roll out the next generations of processors based on its new Core Architecture, officials are commenting on what the company is doing to enhance such areas as hardware-level virtualization and quad-core chips.
Speaking here at the Intel Developer Forum on March 7, Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president and general manager of Intels Digital Enterprise Group, demonstrated both server and desktop systems running early versions of the companys quad-core processors, which are due next year.
In addition, Gelsinger outlined new features that will start appearing over the next year or so in Intel chips, including I/O virtualization capabilities within its Intel Virtualization Technology.
Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., has begun putting its hardware-level virtualization technology onto its processors, and will follow later with its Intel VT-d for interconnects.
Gelsinger announced on March 7 that Intel has released the specifications for the technology.
The moves are part of Intels overall push to bring better performing, and more energy-efficient, processors to the market, and do so by combining technologies and features that surround the chips.
The moves are also part of Intels decision to address issues that rival Advanced Micro Devices has addressed through its processor architecture.
“Today, the IT manager is under pressure,” Gelsinger said. “Theyre being asked to do a better job of managing assets and capacity in an environment where 80 percent of their IT budget is spent on keeping the resources they have running, and where the top two costs in that budget are people and power.”
Gelsinger outlined technology that Intel is working on to address those demands, including a focus on virtualization, which entails the move to expand the reach to the I/O. Intels VT-d will enable users to assign I/O to virtual machines, giving them greater flexibility in how they deploy it, he said.
Gelsinger and Diane Greene, president of virtualization software vendor VMware, also announced a tighter relationship between the two companies that includes not only consulting on technology, but also joint marketing and sales efforts. VMware products also will support VT-d in 2007, said Greene, when joining Gelsinger onstage.
“Our customers … love virtualization, and anything we do to make virtualization more enhanced makes it all the better for them,” Greene said.
Virtualization Takes Center Stage
Both Intel and AMD are bringing virtualization to their processors, which they say will improve the performance of virtualization software and help make the technology more mainstream.
Another feature Intel is working on will help users deal more easily with the increased XML-based Web traffic. Intel is bringing its I/O Acceleration technology to its chips to help increase the speed of data. Now the company is turning that same focus to XML, which Gelsinger said already exceeds e-mail traffic and by next year will exceed all traffic on the Web.
The next generation of Intels Active Management Technology, which enhances users management capabilities, will offer technology that offers circuit breaker capabilities for added network protection.
In addition, Intel has released the specifications for its upcoming on-chip security feature, called LaGrande, Gelsinger said.
Dual- and multicore chips that ramp up performance while cutting energy consumption also will continue playing a key role, Gelsinger said. The upcoming dual-core Xeon MP—codenamed “Tulsa” and due out in the second half of the year—will include a host of features, such as memory sparing, that will increase the reliability of the chip.
Gary Campbell, vice president and chief technology officer of Hewlett-Packards Enterprise Storage and Servers group, said the Palo Alto, Calif., company will refresh its ProLiant servers, blade systems and workstations with the upcoming Woodcrest and Dempsey processors.
HP will use the more energy efficient chips with its own system-level technologies—such as small form factor Serial Attached SCSI drives—to help customers address power and heat concerns. HP is the among the top OEMs to use both Intel and AMD chips in its lineup.
“Conroe,” due out in the second half of the year, will offer a 40 percent performance boost while reducing energy consumption by the same amount, he said.
Gelsinger said Intels dual-core ramp is on track—the company predicts that 85 percent of server chips and 70 percent of client processors shipped by the end of the year will be dual-core. Quad-core processors will start appearing next year as Intel moves to a 45-nanometer manufacturing process, he said.
Gelsinger showed a rack with three systems from Dell, with two running upcoming dual-core Dempsey and Woodcrest chips. The third was running on an early version of Intels quad-core Xeon, codenamed “Clovertown.”
He also said that the presentations shown during his keynote were done on a PC running an early version of a quad-core client chip.
One industry analyst said that, after a chaotic couple of years shifting its strategy away from simply cranking up the frequency of its chips to a more platform focused approach, Intel is getting back to where it was in 2001, when it was a more smoothly running machine.
“Intel is definitely getting back on track,” said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with Insight64. “What they showed today in terms of the performance of its new microarchitecture is impressive. And what it showed in terms of its power characteristics is equally impressive.”
This is good news for users, who now have quality products from AMD and Intel coming to market, rather than one outdistancing the other, Brookwood said.
“Its not much fun watching a tennis match where one guy serves and the other guy never really returns the serve,” he said.