|Introduction and The Keynote|
Paul Otellini, Intel's president and CEO, kicked off this season's IDF by coining the phrase "It's what's inside that counts", and spoke about why processing power matters again. A few years ago, he noted, PC Magazine declared that consumers couldn't use all the processing power at their disposal, but thanks to changes with software and with the industry in general, that situation has changed. Next generation gaming, more powerful desktop search engines, photo and video editing, and more powerful operating systems like Vista and OSX are driving the need for more powerful processors again.
Paul cited YouTube as an example. A typical 60 second clip will utilize 100% of the CPU resources offered by a first-gen Pentium M processor that's only a couple of years old.
He also spoke extensively about HD video and that the trend toward higher resolutions, and high definition encoding and decoding on the PC requires up to eight times the processing power of standard SD video. He also spoke of users now being more mobile, so the need to process HD also has to come in conjunction with lower-power requirements, which in-turn requires more energy efficient processors.
He then spoke about Intel's new leadership in the "Performance per Watt" arena. He stated that the 60-day ramp of the Core 2 Duo was the fastest in Intel's history. There is no question Core 2 duo is flying off the shelves both within OEM partners and retail, so this stands to reason.
Mr. Otellini, a nice Italian fellow like a few of us here at HH, then moved on to Kentsfield and Quad-Core. These new multi-core CPUs will be targeted at the enthusiast market at first and it was confirmed that they will be available in volume in November.
The first chip to hit retail will be known as the Core 2 Extreme QX6700. Future models will be known as the Core 2 Quadro. These chips are a straight-forward integration effort of two Core 2 Duo CPUs on a single substrate and tied to the same front side system bus. Finally, he claimed huge performance gains over existing dual-core processors, and talked about how current threaded software can readily take advantage of the chip.
|More on the Keynote|
Paul then brought out Markus Maki from Remedy (Max Payne, and Max Payne 2) to talk about how upcoming games will take advantage of the capabilities of a new Quad-Core processor. Markus demoed "Alan Wake", a game about a man whose nightmares begin to come true. He demoed the game on a Falcon Northwest Core 2 Extreme QX6700 quad-core system overclocked by over 1GHz to 3.73GHz, using an "NVIDIA graphics solution" one which was left model nameless and of course piqued our geek immensely.
The game makes extensive use of HDR volumetric lighting, even in expansive outdoor environments. Quite frankly, it looked completely awesome. One entire CPU core was dedicated to physics processing, and in addition to processing the game world, the other cores helped to prepare data for the GPUs to speed rendering. No other details were given beyond this. Regardless, it certainly was an impressive demo and a great way to kick off the show.
Paul then moved the audience into Intel's manufacturing capabilities, and mentioned that their 45nm manufacturing processes is tracking exactly as 65nm did at this stage of its development. He mentioned that intel already has fifteen 45nm products already in development. That's a lot of VERY expensive mask sets but since their built internally of course, Intel can throw more than a few very efficient pennies at the design.
He showed an overhead picture of their 45nm facility in Oregon, Fab D1D, that cost roughly $3B -- chump-change for Intel, or so it would seem. The facility is 212,000 square ft and it is producing test wafers now. To say Intel has the manufacturing muscle to put into motion virtually any new technological advancement they so choose, would be an understatement of large proportions. Production wafers will come from the facility in 2H '07.
Paul also showed pics of upcoming facilities in Arizona (Fab 32) and Israel (Fab 28). In total, Intel will have three 45nm fabs by the end of next year at an investment of about $9B. In total, between the three facilities, they'll have about a 1/2 million square feet of clean room. These fabs will be used to produce 45nm products, and facilitate Intel's desire to introduce new micro architectures every 2 years, while continually enhancing performance per watt. 800 pound gorilla? Goliath? There is no question, Intel has the fire power and their big guns are chambered.
He then showed a pic of the ASCI Red super-computer circa 1996. It consisted of 85 cabinets and performed at roughly 1 teraflop. He then pulled out a 45nm wafer, with 80 cores on that wafer (they must have been very large die). They were of an experimental design that can perform at 1 teraflop per chip, and can transfer 1TB/s of data between their cores and integrated stacked SRAM structures. Each of these die had 80 simple floating point cores on them. Otellini noted this is a "potential" design that could be in production within 5 years. This kind of power could yield real-time video search, and real-time speech-recognition with language translation.
Paul then brought out Tom Barton of Rackable Systems. He showed off a 1/2 height 20U rack, that can stack systems on top of each other and back to back. In that 20U rack, they could fit 40 servers, each with dual-quad-core Xeons, for a total of 320 cores. This is possible because of the lower TDP of the new Xeons. The 20U rack filled with dual-quad core Xeon servers is in the top 200 fastest super-computers in the world. The full height rack, which can fit double the number of servers, is in the top 80 super computers. The 1/2 height rack can process up to 3 teraflops, the full height up to 6 teraflops.
Paul then came back down to earth and moved on to talking about the desktop. He spoke of the popularity of the Core 2 Duo. Intel has shipped millions of these CPUs in the last 60-days. It has been their most successful ramp ever. In addition to higher performance, the lower power requirements have allowed partners to produce smaller form factor systems. He showed some small VIIV compliant systems and spoke of new DMA (Digital Media Adapters) that will make it easy for VIIV PCs to send data to legacy video devices or for better integration with the entertainment center. He also showed an upcoming DIRECTV set-top-box with a built in DMA that will interface with a VIIV PC to share content. Performance per watt and performance per square inch were the theme of the day.
|Quad-Core Systems and Our Conclusion|
He then moved onto mobility and spoke of Intel's success with Centrino. Since Centrino's launch, popularity of notebook as skyrocketed and they now outsell consumer desktop PCs.
He spoke of the upcoming mobile "Santa Rosa" platform that will incorporate NAND storage, Core 2 Duo CPUs, 802.11n WiFi, and G965 chipset. Santa Rosa will be a big step up in performance, and will have better battery life through advancements in manufacturing and the use of NAND storage. NAND will be integrated onto the motherboard in Santa Rosa and we can see its obvious usefulness in a sort of scratch-pad application, allowing drives to spin down while data is cached in NAND memory perhaps. A NAND flash array should also allow for faster access to OS functions for enhanced instant-on capabilities. He then spoke of the progress with WiMAX and stated that WiMAX will be part of the Centrino platform in the future, as part of a total WiFi solution.
Intel then showed off some future ultra mobile designs that would be low-power and be able to run a full version of Vista in a handheld PC. They then pulled a Volkswagen out onto the stage and linked the Ultra mobile PC to the car's systems using 802.11n; the handheld PC had net connectivity through a WiMAX connection. The car's computer used the Ultra mobile PC's WiMAX connection to stream music from the web, and the UMPC sent maps and video to the car's computer. Videos and audio could also be streamed from the UMPC. It was capable of streaming multiple video feeds and audio simultaneously. Intel is all about impressive tech demos at this year's IDF.
Finally, we were treated to a sampling of Quad-Core gaming systems. Voodoo, Alienware, Gateway, Dell, Hypersonic, were all in attendance. Voodoo's water-cooled rig is always a crowd pleaser and looks very much like their line of OMEN Core 2 Duo systems but with a quad-core Kentsfield chip under the hood.
That wraps up our first installment of Intel-infused goodness from inside the halls and conference rooms of this year's Fall IDF. More to come later this week...