Now that the reviews of Intel’s Core i7 processor are in, Intel is planning to launch the first of its chips based on the new Nehalem microarchitecture during a Nov. 17 event in San Francisco.
Although the first of these Nehalem-based processors are designed for high-end desktops and gaming PCs, Intel is preparing to follow up this month’s release with new processors specifically designed for workstations and dual-core server systems, which look to meet the needs of the company’s business buyers and enterprises.
Nehalem processors designed for corporate clients and notebooks will follow in 2009.
While the Core i7 processors were created for high-end desktops, which will allow Intel and its OEM partners to have new PCs ready for the holiday shopping season, enterprise buyers can also expect new systems built around Nehalem processors. While Intel is not talking specifics just yet, it seems additional processors with workstations and servers should become available by late 2008 and early 2009.
When the new Nehalem-based processors enter the market, Intel will stress characteristics such as energy efficiency, the ability to handle multithreaded applications and a boost in performance by integrating chip’s memory controller directly into the CPU, which eliminates the front side bus (FSB) and should decrease bottlenecks.
Advanced Micro Devices has been building processors with integrated memory controllers for a number of years and users can also expect AMD to launch new server, workstation and desktop chips in the coming year as well.
In addition to integrating the memory controller, processors based on Nehalem will scale from one core to eight cores, with each processing core containing two instructional threads.
While multiple instructional threads will improve performance when it comes to games, Intel Vice President Steve Smith said these features will also allow users who work in graphic design and content creation to render high-definition video faster as well as give workstation users the ability to create multimedia and digital content faster.
For energy efficiency, Smith pointed to two features that should enhance performance there. The first is called Power Gate technology, which allows the processor to switch off power to a core if that core is not needed or just sitting idle. The second feature, called Turbo Boost, will speed up the cores that are actively running an application.
“These power management features really help optimize performance in an energy efficient way whether you’re running a single threaded application or whether you’re running multithreaded applications,” said Smith.
While these types of power-saving features will be useful in servers, as IT managers look to save power, the real benefit will not be seen until Intel offers notebook processors based on the new architecture, said Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates.
“They [Intel] are leading with the desktops, which is not the power throttle version, so I suspect they will work to balance it out more before they bring out their mobile part and Intel has always done pretty well on those things,” said Kay. “That’s where you would expect to see the power savings.”
With the integrated memory controller, Intel has managed to increase performance without dramatically increasing the clock speed of the processors. In the first set of Core i7 processors, the on-die, three-channel DDR3 (double data rate 3) memory controller, should increase memory offers two times the memory bandwidth compared to previous processors, said Smith. It will also reduce the latency for those applications that do not execute in cache.
While IT buyers could begin to see Nehalem-based processors for workstation and dual-socket server systems soon, Intel has additional plans for 2009. This includes two- and four-core Nehalem processors for corporate clients – Intel is also preparing new vPro management technology – as well as chips for notebooks. At its Developer Forum in Taiwan last month, Intel showed off this new notebook platform codenamed “Calpella.”
Later in 2009, Smith said the first Nehalem-based processors that will integrate graphics directly onto the silicon die will begin to appear in desktop PCs.
“Some of these new processors will have integrated graphics built into the processor and our partners will see this as an efficient use of the processor socket and the memory for both compute power and graphics,” said Smith.