Intel Roadmap Outlines Meteor Lake, Arrow Lake And Lunar Lake Amid Return Of Tick-Tock Cadence
If you compare the Intel of the latter half of the 2010 to the Intel of the former half of 2010, they're barely recognizable. Once upon a time, Intel was firing on all cylinders, kicking butt and taking names with definitive leadership in both process technology and processor architectures. Eventually, however, the company lost ground and lost it's step, especially with respect to process advancements.
Intel's serious stall-out with its 10nm process node caused it to lose the plot for a bit, but current CEO Pat Gelsinger is clearly fired-up about righting the ship. In yesterday's 2022 Investor Meeting, Gelsinger and company put on a presentation where they went over every part of the company's business strategy, and laid out its high level plans for the next few years.
Notably, slides in the presentation confirmed what we already suspected: Raptor Lake is this year, Meteor Lake will come next year, the successor to Meteor Lake in 2024 will be codenamed Arrow Lake, and after that, the next product will be known as Lunar Lake. There weren't any details about Lunar Lake in Intel's presentation, but we can expect it to come in hot on the company's 18A process.
As far as Raptor Lake goes, there really wasn't much new to talk about in the presentation. As we've already heard, Raptor Lake is going to double the number of E-cores on the die, which is likely where that "double-digit performance boost" is coming from. We're not quite what RL's "enhanced overclocking features" will be, but it sounds interesting. Also, Intel talked a bit about an intriguing AI M.2 module. This will be some sort of AI compute accelerator that slots into an M.2 socket. That's pretty interesting on its own, but the real fascinating part is that it will apparently be included (or at least available) as an on-package component in Meteor Lake.
This is not the first official mention of Meteor Lake from Intel, but it is the first time we've gotten a clear picture of what the company intends for Raptor Lake's follow-up. As we've heard and seen pictured, it will be a tiled design, and it will apparently segment I/O and SoC functions off into their own die separate from graphics and CPU functions, much as AMD's Ryzen products do.
By the way, if you read "18A" earlier and thought "what the heck is that," it's "18 Angstrom." One Angstrom is approximately 1/10 of a nanometer; 18 Angstrom is 1.8nm. 18A will be Intel's process node after 20A, which itself will be the process after Intel 3. If all that sounds pretty far away from the current-generation Intel 7, you're not alone in that thinking.
Gelsinger directly addressed doubters on-stage, saying that Intel has given its foundry division an "unlimited budget" to get back on track. The company expects to be shipping parts on Intel 4 in the latter half of this year, and then to have a new fabrication process available every year through 2023, with 20A and the refined 18A coming available in first and second half of 2024, respectively.
It all sounds like a surprisingly- and perhaps concerningly-rapid pace, but that's intentional, according to Gelsinger. In the above slide, the company namedrops its former "Tick-Tock" development process, but it seems like the current crew is using it a little differently. Historically, tick-tock referred to Santa Clara's process of releasing new CPU architectures on a refined existing process, and then refined CPUs on a new process.
Instead, Gelsinger talked about having multiple teams working simultaneously on different architectures and fabrication processes to accelerate development. This seems to be what he means by "tick tock" this time around. This is evidenced in the expected release cadence: Raptor Lake on Intel 7, Meteor Lake on Intel 4, Arrow Lake on 20A, and so on. Intel also isn't shy about acknowledging that it may enlist outside help for further fabrication capacity if necessary.
All in all, it looks like Intel is gearing up for a battle of epic proportions. If Alder Lake is anything to go by, the company's primary competition could be in for a world of hurt. Only time will tell if the company's spit-shined armor and polished-smooth spears are made of tin or titanium, but it all sounds impressive and should be exciting to watch.