Intel Unveils Itanium-Based Poulson Processors For Mission-Critical Computing

Intel on Monday at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco unveiled its latest Itanium-based processor for mission-critical computing, code-named Poulson.

Poulson includes 3.1 billion transistors, more than any microprocessor currently on the market, along with eight cores and 54 MB of memory built onto its 32-nm process, Intel said. Poulson is compatible with Intel's Itanium 9300 processor and offers additional power management features as well as reduced socket power consumption. According to Intel, Poulson also achieves higher QPI and SMI bus speeds compared to previous Itanium chips, increasing overall bandwidth by 33 percent.

Rory M. McInerney, vice president of the Intel Architecture Group and director of Intel's Microprocessor Development Group, said on Thursday in a conference call that Intel's Poulson processors will measure about 588 mm in size and include DDR 3 memory on its controllers, as well as changes to its Core hyper-threading, the details of which Intel is not yet ready to disclose.

McInerney said Poulson leverages Intel's Xeon architecture, adding twice the high-capacity cores along with additional data and instruction pipelines, a floating-point pipeline, and an instruction buffer.

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"This optimization allows Poulson to issue up to 2X the number of instructions down its execution pipelines versus the previous Itanium implementations," he said. "For the end user this means that we believe we have an architecture that will provide a significant performance benefit for Poulson over the Tukwila implementation and builds a foundation for future Itanium processors."

McInerney said Poulson's additional features offer increased instruction throughput, improved performance per watt, and increased system and application resiliency.

"Users are able to do things differently with Itanium and Xeon, but resiliency really distinguishes Itanium in terms of mission-critical applications," McInerney said. "Both Itanium and Xeon platforms deliver outstanding performance and are very complimentary. Intel believes that with two different mission-critical platforms we offer our customers a choice that enables them to best decide what meets their business needs."

Intel said its Poulson processors emphasize error prevention, detection and correction. Poulson enables correctable parity errors and soft error resilient flops, Intel said, while expanding Cache error coverage and residual protection of floating point operations for better end-to-end error detection, and improving firmware error handling. As a result, Intel says its Poulson processors offer a more resilient process, while maintaining execution integrity and minimizing service interruption.

However, McInerney said this is the first time Intel has gone from a 6-wide pipeline to a 3-wide pipeline on its Itanium cores and Intel has yet to test its software to see if there are issues with the transition. McInerney said Intel has been working with HP and other customers on developing Poulson-based technology and so far there have not been any issues.

Next: Intel's Product Roadmap For Mission-Critical Computing

Intel declined to provide a specific timetable for bringing Poulson to market. "At this point won't make any comment on schedule," McInerney said. "We're comfortable with where it is, it's on schedule and on track for where we want to be."

Intel previously disclosed that Poulson's successors will be code-named Kittson and McInerney confirmed that Intel's product roadmap had not changed in that regard, without offering any details for Kittson.

"We are very excited about the possibilities that exist with Itanium moving forward and will be sharing more Kittson product details in the future, as the development phase progresses forward," McInerney said.

Last February, Intel introduced its Itanium 9300 series processors, allowing Intel to retire its Tukwila moniker five years after launching the first Tukwila processors.

Intel followed up in March with the launch of the Intel Xeon 7500 series Nehalem EX server processors, aimed at bringing mission-critical hardware capability into the mainstream.

Intel did not offer pricing details for its upcoming Poulson processors.