Intel Embraces Efficiency

Intel last week outlined plans to phase out processors that feature speed in exchange for those that offer greater efficiency.

Intel Corp. says it is moving away from what made it successful in the past in order to ensure success in the future.

At its Intel Developer Forum here last week, the chip maker outlined plans to phase out processors that feature speed in exchange for those that offer greater efficiency. That push will appear in the architecture of the next generation of processors to maximize the performance they deliver per watt of electricity consumed. Power efficiency, which has been key in notebook design, is becoming a larger priority in desktop and server designs.

"We realized that power efficiency was critical," said Stephen Smith, vice president of Intels Digital Enterprise Group, in a briefing at IDF.

The architecture, with new circuitry, will begin arriving in the second half of next year with processors code-named Merom, Conroe and Woodcrest, for notebooks, desktops and servers, respectively. It will feature such capabilities as multiple cores, virtualization and greater power management that will enable better efficiency. The chips will lower the power consumption of their respective platforms up to 30 watts. The architecture will be based largely on Intels Pentium M, which is already designed for energy efficiency.

Intel will follow Woodcrest in 2007 with a chip code-named Whitefield, which will incorporate four cores on a single piece of silicon.

Systems makers already have begun adopting early versions of Intels dual-core designs.


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At IDF, IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., unveiled the four-way xSeries 260 server, which will be ready for dual-core Intel Xeon processors when the chips start to roll out later this year. In addition, IBMs IntelliStation M Pro 6218 will be powered by Intels dual-core Pentium D chip. Both systems are due in September. In addition, Gateway Inc., of Irvine, Calif., this week will introduce a server, the E-9220T, that targets SMBs (small and midsize businesses) and offers a range of processor options, including the Pentium D and dual-core Pentium Extreme Edition. Company officials said they eventually will outfit their entire server line with dual-core chips.

Also last week, Acer America Corp., of San Jose, Calif., rolled out the Veriton 6800, a family of corporate desktops that includes a computer powered by the Pentium D.

Users say that the focus shift from speed to efficiency is a move in the right direction.

"Gigahertz is not as important as features such as true multithreading, dual-core and 64-bit [that] can give you better overall performance at slower speeds with the side benefits of lower utilities and heat issues," said Jevin Jensen, director of IS technical services at Mohawk Industries Inc., in Calhoun, Ga. "Lets get from dual-core to multicore and then move from hyperthreading to three or four threads per core soon."

Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., is facing strong competition in the x86 market from rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc., which has beaten Intel to both 64-bit and dual-core capabilities in its processors. In addition, AMD, of Sunnyvale, Calif., built its dual-core Opteron and Athlon 64 chips to fit into the same power envelope as the single-core processors. AMD plans to bring more capabilities to its chips in the future.

John G. Spooner is a senior writer with


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