Intel's Wave Of The Future


Company touts dual-core chips as No. 1 market priority for next year


Ready or not, here comes dual-core.

Intel executives say the technology has become its primary focus for future processors--even as the company works to fix execution issues that have plagued it of late.

During the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco last week, Intel President and COO Paul Otellini all but vowed to change the way the industry views CPUs when the company rolls out its first dual-core chips into the market next year. With dual-core processing backed by Hyper-Threading technology, Intel aims to make high-performance parallel computing the norm, he said.

"Intel has decided that we are going to drive parallelism," Otellini said in his IDF keynote. "In fact, I believe that what we are looking at is moving from an era of 'how many chips in a computer?' to 'how many computers in a chip?' Think about that in the way you are going to deploy products going forward."

By making dual-core processing and other platform-level enhancements to its chips, Intel hopes that it can push the market--from top to bottom--into a baseline expectation of higher-performance, digital-capable computing.

Intel is making that effort, however, while it's still recovering from a series of miscues and product delays. In a press conference after his keynote, Otellini acknowledged those issues, as well as heightened competition from Advanced Micro Devices.

"We had some fumbles," he said. "Some of our problems had to do with the fact we had not done a terribly good job of planning at the platform level. We're moving toward a common platform planning methodology and putting consistently rigorous, conservative schedules onto what we're doing."

Intel partners and other IDF attendees expressed mixed feelings about the chip giant's approach.

"I understand what the drive [to dual-core] is,"
said Clyde Clark, system architect and engineering manager at Performance Technologies, a Rochester, N.Y.-based system builder. "But you still have the same problems and thermal issues you would for two processors. There are a lot of questions still out there."

Yet, there was some positive reaction to Intel's decision to hold back some key products, such as the Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS) processor that the company had intended to release this year for LCDs and LCD-TV displays.

Ted Hunter, vice president of Champion Networks, a Brunswick, Maine-based solution provider that has provided third-party vendor, high-end displays to customers, said it's better for Intel to wait and make sure there are no glitches or other issues.

"In some ways, they would be risking their brand recognition on this," Hunter said. "With the AMD chip coming out [with functions such as] antivirus buffering, I think it's a really bad time for Intel to take a chance."

In addition to dual-core processors, Intel rolled out new Active Management Technology for "Out of Band" diagnostics and management and updated its road map for Itanium 2 and Xeon. The company also said it would put many of its enterprise efforts under the moniker of Service Oriented Enterprise (SOE), which essentially will become a platform for next-generation Web services.

But it was the dual-core processing advance that drew the lion's share of attention at IDF.

Bill Siu, vice president and co-general manager of desktop platforms at Intel, offered a dual-core demonstration showing a single system that can run multiple video streams, high-definition audio, and productivity and management functions at the same time. The demo came a week after Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD provided invitation-only demonstrations of its competing dual-core technology on Opteron processors.

"We ought not look at this as a race," Otellini told reporters. "And I'm very happy in this case that our prime competitor is also embracing this move, because it says we've also picked the right direction."

CURRENT LINEUP 2005 TO 2006 FUTURE
Multiprocessor (MP) Platforms MP Platforms MP Platforms
• Itanium 2 with 2 Mbytes to 6 Mbytes of cache will increase to 9 Mbytes by next year. Series enabled by Intel E8870 chipset • Next-generation Itanium MP offerings will include Montecito and Montvale projects. Both will be enabled by Intel E8870 chipset • MP Platforms
Common platform
architecture planned for Itanium 2 through Tukwila project. Future chipset also is expected
• Xeon Processor MP with enabled chipsets
Dual-processor (DP)
Platforms
• Next-gen Xeon MP offering slated to include Cranford (value processor) and Potomac/Tulsa (dual-core edition), enabled by Intel Twin Castle
DP Platforms
• Next-gen Xeon offering and related chipset code-named Whitefield
DP Platforms
• Itanium 2 with low-voltage (LV) features with Fanwood low-voltage offering to come in 2005. Series enabled by Intel E8870 chipset
Irwindale offering to come in
• Updates to LV offerings code-named Millington and Montvale. Processors will be enabled by Intel E8870 chipset • Dimona LV Itanium 2 family offering with related chipset
• 2005. Series enabled by Intel E7520 and E7320 chipsets • Next-gen offerings for Xeon also planned • Next-gen offerings for Xeon also planned