RealTime IT News

Intel Looks to Solidify Quad-Core Lead

SAN FRANCISCO – Intel gave the first public demonstration of a prototype system running on its quad-core "Tigerton" platform at a media briefing here today.

Intel already plans to release its first quad-core processor (codenamed Clovertown), the Xeon 5300, next month for mainstream servers and workstations.

Multi-core  processors feature more than one computing core or "brain" on a chip. A quad-core processor has four cores.

Tigerton, also in the Xeon family, isn't due out until the third quarter of 2007. Based on Intel's Core microarchitecture, Tigerton is designed for multiprocessor (MP) servers and will be part of Intel's Xeon MP 7000 series.

The system Intel showed included four Tigerton processors for a total of 16 cores. The high performance system also has dedicated high-speed interconnects between each processor and the chipset for increased performance. Intel said it isn't releasing any pricing at this time.

Tigerton's platform chipset, codenamed Caneland, uses FB-DIMM in MP for the first time, according to Intel,  with four memory interconnects for better throughput and capacity.

Intel competitor AMD  isn't expected to ship its first quad-core systems till 2007. AMD's Opteron processor uses a direct connect memory architecture that has some advantages to Intel's approach, which requires a frontside bus . On the Caneland platform, each processor socket has its own direct link to the FSB.

Analyst Nathan Brookwood said Intel uses a lot of intelligent caching and a "complicated, expensive motherboard" in its quad-core design, to achieve high performance.

"This is the first industry standard quad-core MP server," said Steve Smith, Vice President and Director of Intel's Desktop Enterprise Group. Before the end of next year, Smith said Intel plans to offer quad-core throughout the Xeon line by then end of next year.

In a demo, Intel's prototype system rendered a 3D image that took 68 seconds to display using one of the processor threads, but when all four cores and 16 threads were employed it only took 3.8 seconds to render. Similarly, Intel showed a complex credit risk analysis simulation that took only a few seconds to complete.

Multi-core processors will speed up application and system software performance, Intel and others are investing in multi-core software development tools to fully exploit the chip's capabilities.

Smith said the Tigerton design was the optimum approach for Intel, and claimed it was more "balanced" than what AMD has planned. He also was bullish on Intel's head start in quad-core.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we ship a million units [Cloverton and Tigerton combined) before our competitor ships a single quad-core," said Smith.

AMD couldn't be reached for comment.

Brookwood acknowledged Intel has a healthy head start in quad-core, but from the technical briefings he's had, thinks AMD will be able to offer a less expensive alternative when it does ship.

"AMD's chipsets aren't nearly as complex as Intel's," Brookwood told . "They can use less expensive components with less cache and motherboards that don’t require as many layers as Intel's.

"Both companies are leveraging their R&D investments in different ways."