Intel Preps for 2007 Fall IDF

Intel is expected to offer details about its Penryn family of processors and the new Nehalem architecture.

After a summer dominated by the ups and down of Advanced Micro Devices quad-core Opteron processor, Intel is preparing to make its own industry buzz at its semiannual Developer Forum.

In the spring, Intel hosted IDF (Intel Developer Forum) in Beijing, which showed the Santa Clara, Calif., companys interest in new and emerging markets. This time, Intel will shift back to the familiar confines of San Francisco as the company details its plans for the coming year.

So far, Intel has been nearly silent about its intentions for the upcoming Developer Forum, which starts Sept. 18. However, it seems clear from industry watchers that the company will focus on two upcoming processors: Penryn and Nehalem.

Intels Penryn family of chips marks the first time that the company will shrink its processors from the current 65-nanometer manufacturing process to a 45-nanometer process that will use its Hi-k processor technology. In addition, this will allow Intel to crank up the clock speed and offer larger L2 caches. The move to 45-nanometer will also give the companys processors a bigger transistor budget and better performance per watt.

At the spring IDF, executives showed off several Penryn models running between 3GHz and 3.3GHz. The L2 cache used in Penryn is also much larger, with the company offering 6MB for dual-core processors and 12MB for its quad-core models. By contrast, AMDs quad-core Opteron offers a 512KB of dedicated L2 cache for each core and all four cores share 2MB of L3 cache.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about Intels vPro platform.

The Penryn FSB (front side bus) is also expected to increase. For now, many Intel desktop and server processors have a 1333MHz FSB, but Penryn is expected to debut with a 1600MHz.

Intel is expected to introduce a number of Penryn processors later this year. It will also offer these processors across the companys product line, including desktops, laptops, servers and workstations. This sort of unified microarchitecture across the product line is a goal Intel has been working toward for some time, said Roger Kay, the president of Endpoint Technologies Associates in Wayland, Mass.

"Its interesting because it show that they [Intel] have gotten to the point where they have a unified architecture across all of their products," Kay said. "They have been trying it for a while, but it looks [like] they are doing it this time."

There is less known about Nehalem, although most industry watchers suspect that the new chip will represent Intels new microarchitecture and will be manufactured at 45-nanometers. These processors will offer between one and eight cores and up to two instructional threads per core.

Intel will also likely offer scalable cache sizes on the Nehalem processor.

Although most of the discussion at the upcoming IDF will focus on Penryn and Nehalem, Intel has several other areas of interest that executives are expected to discuss. One of those areas is the companys WiMax partnership with carriers SprintNextel and Clearwire.

In August, Intel executives said they are preparing to move ahead with different tests of the WiMax network and 2008 is expected to be the year when all three partners start rolling out the WiMax network for customers.

In addition, Intel will likely talk about the details behind its "Montevina" mobile platform, which is likely to arrive in 2008 and offer both WiMax and Wi-Fi support along with 45-nanometer processors. Earlier this year, Intel rolled out its new Centrino mobile platform, which had gone by the codename of "Santa Rosa."

Intel has made little secret of it desire to push further into mobile and portable devices and CEO Paul Otellini might offer additional details related to the companys "Menlow" platform for mobile Internet devices, which will use new 45-nanometer processors called Silverthorne.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about Intels plans for mobile and ultraportable devices.

On the enterprise side, Intel executives are also expected to delve into some of the benchmark results and the new virtualization capabilities with its new "Caneland" platform for MP systems. The platform includes Intels new 7300 series processors and a new chip set and is expected to compete with AMDs quad-core Opteron in the high-end server space.

No matter what Intel details at the IDF, the company is much stronger than it was a year ago and Kay said it has been able to consistently deliver its products into the market place. According to a July 30 report from Mercury Research, Intel controlled 76.3 percent of the x86 market in the second quarter of 2007 compared to AMDs 22.9 percent market share.

"They do have the market share and they have been able to show that they are beating AMD in some of the benchmarks so they want to show their customers that they have the juice right now and that they are in a better position than last year," Kay said.

"That being said their long-term position has been altered and the OEMs due want a second source of chips and thats AMD," Kay added. "AMD might not be able to beat Intel on all the benchmarks, but the customers like HP and Dell want to have that second source."

/zimages/1/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.