Intel demonstrates next-generation processors

San Francisco (CA) - Following up on the rather vague product announcements yesterday from Intel CEO Paul Otellini, plus the Merom announcements from Intel's mobility group, the company's senior vice president, Pat Gelsinger, provided a closer look at its next generation server and desktop processors, including Conroe, to launch the second day of the Fall Intel Developers' Conference.

While day one of keynotes belonged to Intel's business and marketing divisions, day two presented more of an engineering perspective. Gelsinger - in charge of the firm's enterprise group - offered an overview of Intel's 2006 strategies for its business and enterprise platforms. His keynote included presentations of the upcoming Paxville DP/MP and Tulsa processors, a demo of the volume server platform Bensley - which will house the Dempsey processor - as well as a first projections of a future Conroe-based system.

In the server segment, Intel clearly considers multicore configuration - with two, then four cores, and then beyond - as the ultimate driver of performance. For January 2006, Intel announced the Bensley platform with the Dempsey processor, which will be make its premiere as the Xeon 5000 series. Gelsinger showed a fully functional Bensley system on display, promising roughly three times the bandwidth (17 Gb/sec) compared to current Xeon DP systems with the Irwindale core.

Running in a 95 watt power envelope, however, Dempsey will not offer significant power savings. A 3.5x improvement in performance per watt is expected to arrive with the Woodcrest processor, which will can be simply dropped into a Bensley system. As is the case with the Napa platform - which will receive the Merom processor as a refresh - Woodcrest, along with its quad-core version Whitefield, will serve as refreshes for Intel's volume server products.

Also on display were the upcoming higher-end server processors Paxville DP and MP, as well as a wafer full of Tulsa processors. Tulsa is the 1.3 billion transistor, dual- and quad-core chip that will succeed Paxville in the second half of 2006.

Conroe was shown as a working product within a system. However, Gelsinger did not provide an actual look at the die, nor did he elaborate further. As of this moment, what we do know is that Intel's next-generation desktop processor architecture will be available in a 65 watt mainstream version, as well as a high-end version likely to include 6 or 8 Mb of L2 cache, consuming considerably more power.

Later in his speech, Gelsinger provided a few updates on Intel's Itanium series, which will be renovated with the Itanium 9000 series, code-named Montecito, in the first quarter of 2006. Intel expects the new Itanium to compete directly with IBM's Power processors, and to achieve a 64% performance advantage over the current 1.9 GHz Power5 chip. A unique feature of Montecito will be an upgraded reliability mark of 99.99999 % (what engineers call "five nines"). Theoretically, this figure guarantees that a Montecito system will never fail over its lifetime.