Intel Moves to Beat AMD in Quad-core Race

The chip maker says it was willing to sacrifice some performance to get its "Clovertown" chip on the market before AMD's offerings.

Intel is ready to attain leadership in performance and energy efficiency over rival Advanced Micro Devices during the coming months, with processors that continue to be built differently than those of other companies, according to an official with the chip-making giant.

Speaking at a conference June 13 in New York hosted by analyst firm Bear Stearns Security, Dileep Bhandarkar, architect at large for Intel, in Santa Clara, said that when Intels quad-core "Clovertown" is released in the first half of 2007, it will be a single package of two dual-core chips, and that the chips will not have the memory controller integrated into the chip.

Bhandarkar admitted that integrating the memory controller—which handles the flow of data to and from system memory—directly into the chip rather than housing it on a chip set would improve performance with some workloads.

However, he said, Intel officials felt it was more important to bring a quad-core processor to the market before AMD does. The company expects to precede its rival by a quarter or two.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about Intels commitment to lowering power consumption in its "Woodcrest" line.

Bhandarkar also said there is no pressing need right now for an on-board memory controller. "With the new products, we have shown you can increase performance without having to integrate the memory controller," he said.

That said, he added that Intel probably will put the memory controller on the chip at some point, though he declined to be more specific. In the same vein, Intel also is looking at integrating the graphics controller with the processor, though Bhandarkar said no timetable has been set.

Intel over the past couple of years has seen AMD make inroads into its dominant market share, mostly by beating Intel to the market with 64-bit features and dual-core capabilities on its Opteron processors.

Opteron processors also continue to be more energy-efficient than Intels Xeon chips, though Bhandarkar said that gap is closing with the upcoming introduction of such dual-core chips as "Woodcrest," which will launch June 26. He said Woodcrest will give users an 80 percent performance improvement over current Xeon processors while lowering power consumption by 35 percent.

Intel expects that by the end of 2006, 90 percent of Xeon processors shipped will be dual-core, and two-thirds of those will be Woodcrest designs, he said.

Bhandarkar also said he doesnt expect Intel to lose much in the way of performance by having a multichip package for the quad-core processors, as opposed to AMDs design of having a single piece of silicon with four processing cores. As with the current "Bensley" server platform, the Clovertown chips performance will be helped by having independent front-side buses dedicated to each processor.

He admitted that Intel has misjudged the power issue in the past, but said the company has learned from its mistakes and is now focused on addressing an issue that is of growing concern to users. Power was a driving factor for Intels decision to speed up the timetable for chip redesigns.

"We were so focused on pushing performance through megahertz, we were a little slow in recognizing how power [consumption in the chips] was going up," Bhandarkar said. "Were guilty. We misread some things and it hurt us. But were doing something differently now."

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