Intel held its Developer Forum in late September this year. With four core chips and a smart road map for the future, the chipmaking giant gives every indication of being back on top of its game.
Let's start with Intel's shift in focus. After saying for two years that performance doesn't matter, all of a sudden, "Performance matters again," according to Intel CEO Paul Otellini. One commentator observed the real reason for the change: AMD's chips ate Intel's chips for lunch until Intel introduced its Core 2 Duo chips this year.
Okay, let's look at performance then. Intel says its quad core processors will outperform its current Core2 Extreme by 67 percent. Confusingly, the first of these processors, which will ship in November, will also be called the Core2 Extreme. It should not be confused with the Core 2 Quad processor, which will ship in the first quarter of 2007 and is intended for business PCs. The Core2 Extreme quad core processor is intended for gamers, video editors, and others who are heavy into content creation.
Here's the issue to keep in mind though: multi-core processors only deliver an improvement in performance if you have multi-threaded software that takes advantage of the architecture. In fact, single-threaded software sometimes runs more slowly on multi-core chips than it would on single core processors. So far, except for some very specific applications, multi-threaded software is pretty rare. It's no wonder, too; it's more difficult to program, and the debugging process takes longer.
That said it's worth noting that much server software already takes advantage of multi-core and multi-processor architectures. This brings us to the server road map. Intel said that its Quad-Core Xeon processor 5300 series brand for dual processor servers will be shipped this year. Next year, you can expect to see a low-power 50-watt Quad-Core Xeon processor L5310 for blade servers.
Looking further ahead, Intel expects to start producing chips based on 45nm technology by the second half of next year. In fact, the company already has 15 products in development across various segments that spring from the more advanced technology. Intel's chips will pack in even more transistors in 2010, when it introduces Gesher, based on the 32nm architecture.
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