The New Intel Core Microarchitecture

By Nicole Hemsoth

March 10, 2006

This week at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF), Intel has disclosed details of its forthcoming Intel Core microarchitecture, a new foundation for the company's multi-core server, desktop and mobile processors for computers later this year. The first Intel Core microarchitecture products, built on Intel's 65nm process technology, are designed to deliver higher-performing, yet more energy-efficient processors and provide capabilities such as enhanced security, virtualization and manageability for consumers and businesses.

Justin Rattner, Intel Senior Fellow and chief technology officer, explained that the Intel Core microarchitecture is the foundation for delivering greater energy-efficient performance first seen in the Intel Core Duo processor. It builds on the power-saving philosophy begun with the Mobile Intel Pentium-M processor microarchitecture and greatly expands it, incorporating many new and leading-edge innovations as well as existing Intel Pentium 4 processor technologies such as wide data pathways and streaming instructions. Intel expects processors based on the Intel Core microarchitecture, using Intel's 65nm manufacturing technology, to start shipping in the third quarter of 2006.

“The Intel Core microarchitecture is a milestone in enabling scalable performance and energy efficiency,” said Rattner. “Later this year it will fuel new dual-core processors and quad-core processors in 2007 that we expect to deliver industry leading performance and capabilities per watt. People will see systems that can be faster, smaller and quieter with longer battery life and lower electric bills.”

Features of the new microarchitecture include:

Intel Wide Dynamic Execution — Delivers more instructions per clock cycle, improving execution and energy efficiency. Every execution core is wider, allowing each core to complete up to four full instructions simultaneously using an efficient 14-stage pipeline.

Intel Intelligent Power Capability — Includes features that further reduce power consumption by intelligently powering on individual logic subsystems only when required.

Intel Advanced Smart Cache — This includes a shared L2 cache to reduce power by minimizing memory traffic and increase performance by allowing one core to utilize the entire cache when the other core is idle.

Intel Smart Memory Access — Yet another feature that improves system performance by hiding memory latency and thus optimizing the use of data bandwidth out to the memory subsystem.

Intel Advanced Digital Media Boost — Now all 128-bit SSE, SSE2 and SSE3 instructions execute within only one cycle. This effectively doubles the execution speed for these instructions which are used widely in multimedia and graphics applications.

Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president, general manager, Digital Enterprise Group, also gave a keynote presentation on how Intel will build on the Intel Core microarchitecture to deliver superior computing performance and power efficiency for PCs, servers and the core of the network infrastructure while reducing the total cost of IT ownership.

“2006 marks a year of transitions for Intel — a transition to a new process technology and a powerful new microarchitecture, along with the delivery of new platforms solving tough problems for our customers,” said Gelsinger. “This year we have a line-up of enterprise platforms and technologies that will inspire developers with opportunities and excite IT managers with critical capabilities to manage costs and run their business.”

For dual-processor servers and workstations, Intel will ship three new processors in 2006. Sossaman, an ultra-low-power processor, is scheduled to ship next week and is designed for server blades, storage devices and telecommunications equipment. Dempsey is scheduled to ship by the end of the month and is the first processor for a new Intel Xeon-based platform, codenamed Bensley. According to Intel, with the majority of its volume shipping below 100 watts, Bensley will deliver performance-per-watt leadership.

In the third quarter of 2006, Intel will update the Bensley platform with the Woodcrest processor, which will further reduce power consumption by 35 percent while delivering greater than 80 percent improvement in computing performance. Joining Gelsinger onstage was Gary Campbell, vice president and chief technology officer of Enterprise Storage and Servers for HP. Campbell outlined HP's support for the Bensley/Woodcrest platform for its server and workstation customers.

Further reinforcing Intel's near-term portfolio of leading multicore products, Gelsinger also gave developers their first public view of a running quad-core processor, codenamed Clovertown, for dual-processor servers. Clovertown is socket-compatible with the Bensley platform and is slated to ship in early 2007. It will deliver increased processing capacity and is well-suited for multi-threaded applications, such as those used in databases, financial services and supply-chain management. Additionally, the company also plans to ship a quad-core processor — codenamed Kentsfield — for high-end desktop PCs in early 2007.

In addition, Intel provided a look at the next generation of Intel Virtualization Technology (Intel VT) for enterprise servers. Server virtualization helps IT organizations streamline their infrastructure, optimize utilization, reduce total costs and improve business agility. Intel began to ship processors with Intel VT last year. Intel's next generation of virtualization, Intel Virtualization for Directed I/O (Intel VT-d), will include I/O virtualization to assign I/O devices to virtual machines, providing a more robust, higher performance platform for virtualized systems.

The company also announced the immediate availability of a specification for developers to evaluate and design future Intel VT-d supported products. Supporting this development, both Microsoft and VMware executives appeared during the keynote and announced support and collaboration on the Intel VT-d specification.

VMware CEO Diane Greene outlined plans to support Intel VT in all of its enterprise virtualization products, including ESX Server, in 2006. Today VMware supports Intel VT in its Workstation 5.5 and VMware Server products, and plans to have production support for Intel VT in the second half of 2006. The two companies are beginning broad co-marketing program to drive the adoption of server virtualization. VMware will also support Intel's latest Virtualization Technology, VT-d in 2007.

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