Intel's 32-Nm 'Westmere' Processors on Track for Late 2009

The next significant upgrade to Intel's processor line for desktops, notebooks and servers will be 32-nanometer processors currently code-named Westmere. Intel plans a massive $7 billion dollar investment in its chip manufacturing facilities in the United States. Intel says it believes that the new processor will allow it to leapfrog rivals such as Advanced Micro Devices, which recently came out with its own 45-nm processors, although AMD does plan to produce a 32-nm chip eventually.

Intel unveiled its new 32-nanometer working microprocessor for laptops and desktops at a Feb. 10 event in San Francisco. The chip giant said it plans to invest $7 billion over the next two years in its 32-nm manufacturing technology, upgrading production facilities in New Mexico, Arizona, and Oregon.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini announced the plan to upgrade facilities in a statement on Feb. 10.

The new 32-nm chips, developed under the code name Westmere, offer increased performance without an increase in the thermal envelope. Mobile and desktop processor production will begin in the fourth quarter of 2009, with an unspecified rollout date to follow.

The 32-nm chips will feature two processing cores and four instructional threads, with integrated graphics. Chips for mainstream desktops are being developed under the code name Clarkdale, while the processors for thin and light notebooks are code-named Arrandale.

"With this 32-nm generation, we're making our largest-ever investment in a single generation of silicon technology in the U.S.," Stephen Smith, vice president and director of group operations for Intel's Digital Enterprise Group, said during the presentation. "Westmere-based technology is not only for desktop and notebooks, but also some future server products."

Smith went on to refer to the 32-nm processor's robust product health, stating that "our very first silicon on Westmere was capable of booting and running on a PC." As a result, Intel has made the decision to accelerate the 32-nm product ramp, he said.

In doing so, Intel has also deprioritized the development of 45-nm processors, code-named Nehalem, which were previously coexisting in development with the 32-nm processors. Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices recently released a 45-nm processor.

"Intel's basically leapfrogged itself; there are just not that many other 45-nm processors," John Spooner, an analyst with TBR, said in an interview. "And they're doing it for a number of reasons: They want to keep the performance lead they have now, and they're interested in reducing costs."

Processors based on the 32-nm design allow Intel to manufacture more processors on each silicon wafer, which increases the manufacturing output and allows the company to spend less money.

"I view the announcement as [Intel] having its foot to the floor," Spooner said. "Intel doesn't lose sight of the horizon just because it had four bad quarters."