IDF Day 1: Pat Gelsinger Keynote: Embedded + Dynamic + Visual

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Gelsinger next moved on to what he called the "dynamically scalable architecture of tomorrow": Nehalem. But first he gave a small update on other recent platforms, such as Tukwilla (due out later this year) and Dunnington (due out next month)--the last of Intel's 45nm transition.

     

Nehalem is Intel's first dynamically scalable architecture and it represents a new microarchitecture for Intel. It will support Hyper-Threading, it is a monolithic design, and will come in 4 and eventually 8-core versions, although the 8-core versions will be multi-chip modules like Intel's current quad-core processors. The first Nehalem processor is due out sometime in Q4, with the rest of processor family to follow in 2009. Intel recently gave the Nehalem family the official name of "Core i7."

     

Gelsinger invited Rajesh Kumar (Director, Circuit & Low Power Technologies, and Intel Fellow) to the stage to talk about Nehalem in more detail. Kumar explained that Nehalem is very efficient at turning off parts of the processor when they are not in use. Intel traditionally used clock gating, which is great at eliminating power switching, but not good at eliminating leakage power (As process technologies get smaller, leakage power increases). So, Intel developed a new technology, the "power gate," in order to eliminate switching and leakage power issues.

     

Part of the new Nehalem architecture is a Power Control Unit (PCU) and new power sensors integrated into the processor itself. Nehalem's PCU has more than one million transistors (Kumar says that is more than the total number of transistors in the 486 processor). Another new feature of the Nehalem architecture is "Turbo Mode," where unused cores can divert power to the cores being used to give them a power boost.

     

Intel has received interest in Nehalem from the high-performance computing, content creation, and virtualization communities. NASA hopes to harness Nehalem processors for petaflop calculations for climate modeling and space exploration. Gelsinger played a demo of a complex 3D animation demo that was put together by Academy Award-winning Sony artist, Kevin Mack. In the Harpertown vs. Nehalem real-time 3D rendering demo, Nehalm was twice as fast. In a demo with VMWare's Chief Platform Architect, Richard Brunner, they showed how Nehalem--using Intel's next-generation VT-D--is much more efficient than current solutions because it frees up many more CPU cycles. Intel is also working with  other hypervisor vendors, such as Microsoft.

     

Nehalem will integrate the memory controller directly into the processor, and the controller will support three-channel DDR3 memory. (Intel officially specs the X58 chipset with 1,066MHz DDR3 support, but it should be able to work with up to 2,000MHz DDR3 memory.) In a comparison against a Yorkfield system, the Nehalem system was 50-percent faster running the next release of Lost Planet Colonies.

     

Gelsinger also briefly talked about vPro. Intel has seen a lot of growth with vPro, with sixty percent of Fortune 100 companies rolling out vPro-based systems. Gelsinger claims that the vPro systems are resulting in 80-percent fewer desk-side visits and a 45-percent reduction in power costs.
 

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