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Dual-Core Architectures from Intel

Intel’s plans this year have changed pretty dramatically. If the company used to stake the growing clock frequencies of their solutions in the first place, then today it turned out that they can no longer rely on this measure. The processor core architectures developed by Intel engineers and used in Pentium 4 and Xeon processor families were initially supposed to be able to work fine at higher clock frequencies, that is why they were provided with a long execution pipeline. However, further core clock frequency increase stumbled upon some fundamental problems on it way. These problems revealed themselves after Intel moved to 90nm production technology: namely, the new Prescott based CPUs didn’t work that well at higher clock rates even though their execution pipeline grew significantly longer. The processor overclocking couldn’t pass by the heat dissipation and power consumption limitations, leakage current growth and tangible slowing down of the performance gains as the core clock frequency increased. All this pushed Intel to revise their plans significantly.

So, in the coming year Intel is going to focus first of all on increasing the functionality of its solutions rather than speeding up their performance. This new concept suits perfectly well for the dual-core processors, which should become a basis for the new generation of computers supporting virtualization technologies. Moreover, in some cases dual-core architectures can also ensure the performance growth of the systems based around them. That is why Intel got so much carried away by the dual-core processor concept, when they realized that further clock frequency increase with the current architecture is no longer possible. Moreover, since dual-core architectures are being introduced so rapidly, Intel has even given up the continuation of the Tejas product family development. According to Intel’s engineers, the dual-core concept can appear much more fruitful than any further investment into the regular NetBurst CPUs.

Intel has truly Napoleon’s plans concerning the introduction of the dual-core processor architectures in different market segments. While in 2004 only 65% of the desktop systems support virtual dual-core architecture provided by Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology, and in the mobile market there were simply no solutions of the kind at all, Intel hopes that in the future the situation will change nicely. By 2006 they expect over 70% of the desktop processors and over 70% of the mobile CPUs to be based on dual-core architecture. As for the server CPUs, by the year 2006 over 85% of these solutions will be based on dual- or even multi-core architecture.

Unlike AMD’s plans, Intel has a different strategy how to bring these processors into the market. The Micro-processor giant is not going to start with the workstation and server markets, but with the desktop solutions. In fact, this is a pretty evident and logical plan. It is exactly in the desktop segment that Intel is falling most behind its major competitor – AMD. While AMD has successfully managed to significantly speed up its desktop solutions this year, Intel’s processors got just a little bit faster in terms of clock frequency growth because of multiple technological troubles. That is why Intel is hurrying so much with the development of dual-core desktop solutions: the first CPUs based around new architecture should appear in the market in Q3 2005 already. Today these CPUs are known under Smithfield codename, and they will be targeted as competitors to top desktop AMD CPUs, which performance ratings should reach 4200+ by mid next year.

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