Intel Talks Up Six Cores, Nehalem, Graphics

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Dunnington will ship in the second half, said Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Digital Enterprise Group. Gelsinger, addressing media in San Francisco in a briefing on major topics on the slate for April's Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai, China, said the six-core CPU will be socket-compatible with the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip maker's Caneland server/work station platform.

Featuring 16 MB of L3 cache and virtual machine migration technology called FlexMigration, Dunnington and Caneland will be "the industry's virtualization platform of choice for multi-processor servers," he said.

Intel's new microarchicture, Nehalem, will go into production in the fourth quarter, Gelsinger said. The first devices will be fabricated with Intel's 45-nanometer process technology, though a 32nm version of Nehalem codenamed Westmere is planned for 2009.

Nehalem features an integrated memory controller, bringing Intel's microarchitecture more in line with rival Advanced Micro Devices' "native" CPU design. AMD is in a race of its own to move to the 45nm process, which Intel achieved last year. A source close to Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD said OEMs and system builders expect 45nm sample devices from the chipmaker in the mid-Q3 timeframe.

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The benefits of Nehalem, Gelsinger said, included increased parallelism, faster "unaligned" cache accesses, branch prediction enhancements and simultaneous multi-threading. Dual-core, quad-core and even octal-core Nehalem devices will roll out of the fab before the end of the year, he said.

Larrabee, Intel's latest attempt at discrete graphics, would theoretically challenge Nvidia and AMD's ATI division in the two top graphics chip makers' own superheated sandbox. According to Gelsinger, Larrabee represents Intel's "bold view of the transformation of visual computing."

But Gelsinger offered few details about Larrabee other than that it would arrive in 2009 or 2010, and that software developers inform him they are "really excited" about the multi-cored GPU's programmability. Or to be more accurate, really excited about what Intel says is the programmability of Larrabee -- no one has one of the devices yet, Gelsinger admitted.

A spokesperson for Santa Clara, Calif.-based Nvidia expressed doubts about a product that's at least a year away from shipment, if not considerably more.

"If you look at every other time they've launched a discrete graphics part, it's a failure. The reason why is that our rate of innovation is so much faster on the GPU side than theirs is," said the spokesperson.

"They're targeting this to come out in two years. That means they're not targeting anything moving," he said, noting that both Nvidia and AMD would both be in the midst of their own innovation cycles in the time period before Larrabee arrives.