Intel’s Really Big Tech Fest

Source: Reuters

Intel kicks off its 11th annual Intel Developer Forum conference today, drawing thousands of developers from around the world to the Moscone Center in San Francisco for three days of intense tech talk.

Intel is not known for making big news at its show; it likes to get that news out in advance so that the show can concentrate on deep technological dives. The ultramobile chip Atom, the Core i7 (a.k.a. Nehalem), and Larrabee, its entry in the GPU market, have all been spelled out in detail in recent weeks and months.

“Between Nehalem and Nehalem desktop derivatives coming out next year, and some of the Nehalem server derivatives, and Larrabee and Atom, their plate is pretty full,” said Nathan Brookwood, research fellow with Insight64. “The surprises may be if they are willing to talk more about performance.”

Of course, it will be a good day for other vendors to make news. IBM, for example, will make some news surrounding its X-Architecture servers at the show and it will be a part of the Tuesday keynote. Everyone from the PCI SIG to BMW (yes, the auto manufacturer) will be demonstrating new technologies at the show, all built on Intel.

Intel tends to be an early bird, known for holding events early in the morning, and this show is no exception. The opening keynote, featuring chairman and former CEO Craig Barrett, begins at 8:15 am. CEO Paul Otellini isn’t expected at the show since he and Barrett trade off taking the lead spot each year.

The heavy hitters on day one come in the afternoon, when Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president and general manager of the Digital Enterprise group, and David “Dadi” Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of the Mobility group, host their back to back keynotes.

Day two’s triple threat of keynotes involves Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president and general manager of the Ultra Mobility group, Eric Kim, senior vice president and general manager of the Digital Home group, and Renee James, vice president and general manager of the Software and Solutions group.

Day three closes out with CTO Justin Rattner’s talk on research and development, and a “fireside chat” style interview hosted by Moira Gunn, host of “Tech Nation” and ““BioTech Nation” on National Public Radio (NPR) with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

Notable sessions

Tuesday will feature 50-minute long sessions on Nehalem and Atom. The Nehalem chalk talk will discuss the processor’s microarchitecture, power management capabilities, cache optimization and new instruction set. There will even be a session on adding multithreading to games for Nehalem.

Atom will be discussed on Tuesday, and in addition to the current platform, Intel may also discuss Lincroft, the next generation of Atom that may be made in a 32nm process. Intel could conceivably get Atom to 32nm before its main processors because Atom is so small.

On Wednesday, Intel will be discussing overall platform design issues with Nehalem, such as the on-board memory controller and new Quickpath interconnect. AMD developers are used to this, but for Intel, it’s a brand new world without north bridge/south bridge designs.

There will also be a session on next-generation I/O, particularly 10 gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) for Nehalem as well as a number of panels on using solid state drives (SSDs). SSD will be about the only storage-related sessions held at the event.

Also on display will be the recent announced 0.9 revision of USB 3.0. The USB Implementer’s Forum will be showing off a number USB products, hopefully including some 3.0 products. The Forum will also be showing off Wireless USB, which was approved two years ago.

In-Stat analyst Jim McGregor said what’s not on the menu is what interests him. He noted a few technologies that get no or next to no mention in technical sessions. “I haven’t seen much on UWB (Ultra-Wideband). It sounds like UWB is definitely on the back burner for them, because a lot of promoting Wi-Fi peripherals at this point,” he noted. “IA-64, the Itanium architecture, isn’t going to be killed off, but they aren’t talking about it much, either.”

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