Intel: 15 dual-core projects under way

Firm is working on different multicore chips for the server, notebook, desktop and networking market, exec says at IDF.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
4 min read
SAN FRANCISCO--They're going dual-core crazy at Intel.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company is working on 15 different multicore chips at the moment for the server, notebook, desktop and networking market, said Steve Smith, vice president of the Digital Enterprise Group, during a talk at the Intel Developer Forum here.

Dual-core chips for the desktop market, code-named Smithfield, will appear in the second quarter, about the same time as a dual-core Itanium chip, code-named Montecito, arrives.

Smithfield, which will be marketed as an Extreme Edition Pentium 4 chip for gamers, will run at 3.2GHz, slower than single-core chips on the market today, and have an 800MHz bus. Each core has a 1MB cache, less than existing chips.

Although Smithfield will be slower and have less cache, its two cores will boost performance, Smith said.

Smithfield, which can run 64-bit software, will also fit into the same package as current Pentium 4 Extreme Edition chips, so it can be used in current PC designs, he said.

"To get this kind of performance a year ago, you would have had to buy a dual-core workstation," said Smith.

Over the year, the dual-core concept will come to nearly all of Intel's product lines. In 2006, 85 percent of its server chips offered will be dual-core, the company said, while more than 70 percent of its desktop and notebook chips will have multiple cores.

Multiple cores, multiple threads
Though the first chips will have two cores, future chips will have four or more cores, Smith said. On many chips, particularly in the server market, each core will be able to process multiple threads at once, and thereby further increase performance.

Threading and multiple cores will also help gamers, Smith said. Typically, adding threads and cores lets a computer do more things at once and/or run individual applications much faster. By the end of the decade, Intel will produce cores with up to eight threads, meaning that a four-core chip could run 32 simultaneous tasks. Sun Microsystems and IBM are working on similar projects.

Intel will continue to make single-core chips, Smith said.

The move to dual-core and multicore chips also means an explosion of code names. In the Itanium line, a chip called Montvale will arrive in 2006. It will be followed later by Tukwila, which will be the first processor from Intel to have more than two cores. Montvale will be made on 90-nanometer processes, while Tukwila will be made on 65-nanometer processes. (The nanometer measurement refers to the average size of features on a chip.)

Montvale and Tukwila will be for more-expensive Itanium systems. Less-expensive dual-core Itanium chips include a Millington, DP Montvale and Dimona.

Turning on the Xeons
In the Xeon line, the first dual-core chip, called Paxville, will arrive in 2006 and be made on the 90-nanometer process. Tulsa, a 65-nanometer dual-core Xeon, will arrive later that same year.

Before the release of Paxville, Intel plans to deliver a single-core Xeon with a whopping 8MB of cache, Smith said. This will compete against a dual-core Opteron coming from Advanced Micro Devices in the middle of this year.

Tulsa will be followed by Whitefield, which will be able to fit into the same servers as an Itanium chip. Intel has said it will develop common chipsets, motherboards and other parts so that Xeon and Itanium chips will be interchangeable in servers by 2007.

In desktops, Smithfield will be followed by Presler in 2006, an Extreme Edition Chip for high-end desktops, made on the 65-nanometer process. For the standard desktop market, Intel will come out with a dual-core chip called Cedar Mill in 2006. Typically, Extreme Edition chips have larger caches and/or faster system buses. Smith said Presler will have threaded cores and Cedar Mill will have standard cores, giving Presler a performance advantage.

Another chip, Yonah, will come out for notebooks in late 2005 to early 2006. It will be teamed with a wireless chip called Golan.

Smithfield chips will be sold with other Intel chips in an overall platform, or reference design. For businesses, the Smithfield platform is code-named Anchor Creek, while the home version of this platform is called Lyndon. Anchor Creek and Lyndon will sport, among other features, up to 8GB of memory, eight USB 2.0 ports and an ability to add four hard drives.

Yonah and Golan will show up in the Napa platform.

Smith said there are three basic dual-core architectures. Some dual-core chips will consist of a single piece of silicon. Though the two cores will access the outside world through a single bus, they will largely be independent. This is how Smithfield will work. The two cores function independently and then shuttle data through the same bus.

The cores on Montecito, meanwhile, will be more integrated.

Some other dual-core chips will consist of two separate pieces of silicon in a single package. This approach is intended to cut design and manufacturing costs.