RealTime IT News

Intel Ramping Low-Power, Dual-Core

Intel plans to offer new dual-core processors in the first half of 2006 that feature lower power consumption such as the dual core Xeon, code-named Sossaman, that puts out a low 31 watts.

In an interview with internetnews.com, Stephen Thorne, marketing manager with Intel's server platform group, said a major emphasis on the coming year will be a ramp up to dual-core processors across its desktop and server lines.

"We are expecting a major transition late this year and really picking up by 2007 where everything we do is either dual or multicore," said Thorne. By the end of 2006 Intel expects more than 70 percent of its desktop and mobile shipments to be dual-core, and over 85 percent percent of its server CPUs.

Volume shipments of "Montecito," Intel's codename for its forthcoming dual-core Itanium II processor, will start early next year.

The news comes ahead of Intel's Developer Conference late next month in San Francisco, when the chip-making giant will release more details of its roadmap and product release strategy for the next two years.

Dual-core systems, considered cutting edge with the release of chips from AMD and Intel for desktops and servers, have actually been offered for years by IBM and Sun Microsystems.

While dual-core's advantages (having two processors focused on computing tasks instead of one) are obvious, Gordon Haff, senior analyst with research firm Illuminata, believes Intel was pushed to join the party quicker than it wanted to.

For one, competition from AMD, the release of its popular Opteron 64-bit processor for servers, necessitated an Intel response. Intel sprinted. In April of this year, it began shipping its Intel Pentium Processor Extreme Edition 840, the company's first dual-core processor-based platform, to PC makers.

But despite its sprint on dual-core shipments, Intel's own R&D efforts to advance standard single or unicore processors hit a road block.

"Intel still is clearly trailing AMD as far as dual-core on servers," said Haff. "Intel has dual-core for the deskop but the [main dual-core] benefit now is on the server side."

Intel said its first dual-core Xeon MP, codenamed "Paxville, falls under the 7000 series and is due in the first quarter of next year. Xeon MPs are used in servers with four or more processors per server.

Intel is planning beyond dual-core with its multicore "Reidland" and "Whitefield" chipsets, which aren't slated to appear until 2007 and will also be in the 7000 series. The 5000 series, designed for high-volume dual processor servers, are based on dual-core Xeon processors and are due in the first quarter of 2006. The dual-core Pentium D is part of the newly christened 3000 Series.

"We're modifying our roadmap with lower power options such as the LV Irwindale which generate only 55 Watts [almost half the watts of other Xeons in the line] and is suitable for blade computing and modular servers," said Thorne.

Xeon has been making strides at the highest end of the market as it's now in over 50% of the top 500 supercomputers, a 15% jump over last year. IBM's Blue Gene was the fastest on the list released last month. Meanwhile, Intel's Itanium has made it to the number two architecture on the on the independent Top 500 Supercomputer Sites list. "We're up to over 3,600 applications optimized for Itanium which speaks to the overall migration replacing RISC chips," said Thorne.

"Dual-core isn't necessarily a positive in its own right," said Haff. "If Intel could produce 5 GHz processors, the advantage of dual-core is less obvious. Intel had even demonstrated a 10 gigahertz Pentium, but ultimately they couldn't get it into production."

Intel is also shifting to a new naming structure for future processors. Rather than being named by gigahertz speed, Itanium and Xeon processors will be given model numbers. For example, the Itanium 2 or Montecito processor line is in the 9000 series of enterprise platforms.