Intel shows off first x86 quad-core processor

San Francisco (CA) - Intel's chief technology officer Justin Rattner demonstrated to analysts the firm's first quad-core processor. According to Rattner, the chip was a very early production sample of the "Clovertown" processors, which is due for introduction in early 2007 as part of the firm's "Bensley" performance and volume server platform.

The demonstration included two Clovertown processors, which ran commercial and experimental software giving a first impression what mainstreams servers may be able to accomplish in the not too distant future. The processor is still in validation but, according to Rattner, already displays a robust enough performance to demo the chip in public.

Clovertown will be succeeding the Intel's "Woodcrest" processor, which is derived from the upcoming "Merom" mobile processor. Woodcrest (Xeon 5100) will be the last dual-core processor in Intel's performance volume server segment; Clovertown will be ringing in the "multi-core" era for Intel as a multi-die chip with 4 MB of L2 cache, according to industry sources. Clock speeds of Woodcrest and Clovertown are unknown at this time, but the alignment with Merom/Conroe suggests that we can expect speeds that top out well above 2.5 GHz.

Sources told TG Daily that Intel has a range of other quad-core processors in development, for example the 65 nm desktop processor "Kentsfield" (4 MB) for early 2007, the 65 nm server CPU "Whitefield" (8 MB / 16 MB) for 2008. The 45 nm production process will bring the quad-core single-die desktop chip "Bloomfield" as well as the first eight-core processors "Yorkfield" (desktop, 12 MB) and "Harpertown" (server, 12 MB) in late 2008 or early 2009.

According to Rattner, multi-core processors enable Intel bring processor development back to a path of "performance growth that we have know for decades." In recent years, it had become more "difficult" to sustain the historic growth rate, he said. Within the foreseeable time, Intel wants to place "10s and 100s" of cores on one die and expects to enable a new generation of applications while improving the power efficiency of processors. "Applications will do what you wean, not what you say," he said and hinted to what he previously had descirbed as "user aware" computing. "[Software] will have a sense of your intent. They will be much more natural, much more humanlike because of the available computing capability," Rattner said.