Intel's Gelsinger: Nehalem If You've Got 'Em

Pat Gelsinger delivered the product news IDF attendees were waiting for Tuesday in an afternoon keynote showcasing Intel's upcoming Nehalem microarchitecture, the visual computing initiative codenamed Larrabee due in 2009 or 2010, and the chip giant's grand vision for "embedded Internet" devices featuring Intel chips in the hands of every last person on the planet.

The Intel senior VP and GM of its Digital Enterprise Group kicked off his Intel Developer Forum keynote with a tour of a digital landscape featuring Internet-connected vehicles and home electronic devices, then closed it out with a peek at Larrabee. The upshot being that Intel thinks there will be 15 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2015 -- naturally, a giant chunk will be powered by Intel chips -- and that, fairly bombastically, "there's no end to the possibilities that Larrabee enables" for graphics developers.

In between those book-ends was the meat of the keynote, an update on the highly anticipated new client and server chips from Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel codenamed Nehalem and branded Core i7.

Nehalem represents the "tock" in the chip giant's famed "tick-tock" strategy for alternating manufacturing process advances with microarchitecture advances across its main CPU families roughly every year or so, meaning the "ticks" and "tocks" overlap within Intel's major new product lines. Penryn, last year's process transition to 45nm, was the most recent "tick," with the transition to 32nm, or Westmere, due in the 2009-10 timeframe.

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Intel's first Nehalem chips will feature 45nm process technology and later publications will be 32nm products, with Sandy Bridge, the microarchitecture "tock" following Nehalem, appearing first on 32nm devices and then 22nm chips, and so forth.

Intel revealed earlier this month that the first Core i7 chip to come off the line will be an "Extreme Edition" quad-core desktop processor codenamed Bloomfield, scheduled for production in the fourth quarter. That product is reportedly a 3.2GHz processor that will be priced at $999. Two more quad-core Bloomfield chips are reportedly set to follow the black-logoed Extreme device -- a 2.93GHz Core i7 believed to be priced at $562 and a 2.66GHz Core i7 that will sell for $284, both desktop processors.

The first Nehalem server product will be a DP server processor codenamed Gainestown. This unnamed product -- it's not clear if it will be branded Core i7, Xeon or something else entirely -- will also begin production in the fourth quarter, according to a recent Intel presentation to partners obtained by ChannelWeb.

Next: Nehalem Production Ramp And Features

Intel will "be delivering the first and#91;Nehalemand#93; products in Q4 of this year," Gelsinger reiterated Tuesday.

"We'll be filling out the rest of family in 2009," he added, standing under a projected slide featuring logos for a variety of Nehalem mobile, desktop and server devices.

Key changes from the Core design include integrated memory controller technology called QuickPath which replaces its Front Side Bus architecture, the return of Hyper Threading for eight-thread support on a quad-core product, and a new cache subsystem.

Another slide shown during Gelsinger's keynote confirmed what the earlier Intel presentation stated, that the chip giant is claiming its Quick Path memory controller architecture delivers up to 25.6Gbps of bandwidth per link on the Gainestown server chips.

Gelsinger and a succession of guests ran through other features of Nehalem. Perhaps the most exciting is Dynamic Power Management, which "dramatically reduces" power leakage thanks to a process advance and new integrated microcontroller. That technology also enables Nehalem's "Turbo Mode," which Gelsinger described as a process by which Intel is able "to take power savings and put it back into performance."

Other key Nehalem features are improvements to its virtualization capabilities such as Intel VT-d, a hardware improvement that directs assignments to Virtual Machines in place of software switches that previously directed that traffic, and the complementary Ibex Peak chipset reportedly due in the third quarter of 2009, which adds dynamic new remote system management capabilities to successful vPro commercial system platform.