Of course, the launch of Nehalem processors is a big event for the computer market. Intel has been skillfully warming up the public for the new microarchitecture launch and they did very well: all IT publications are full of rumors and opinions about these processors.
But we are going to hold back our optimistic conclusions and would like to warn our readers that despite all advantages of the new microarchitecture, you shouldn’t expect too much of the new Core i7 processors. First, most of the innovations and improvements are targeted primarily for server applications and desktop users will hardly have a chance to really feel them. Second, when Intel engineers worked on the new Nehalem they didn’t try to increase the “pure” performance but mostly to eliminate the platform bottlenecks that were especially critical in server applications.
The main performance gain from the Core i7 processors that desktop users can hope for will be determined by three factors. First, it is Turbo Boost technology that increases the CPU frequency above the nominal pretty often. Second, it is the integrated memory controller providing remarkable bandwidth and impressive latency. And third, it is SMT technology that will have its positive effect during multi-threaded load in the first place.
Although these factors can significantly increase the new processors performance on the one hand, on the other, their effect depends a lot on the type of the processor workload. Therefore, Core i7 processors may not seem so innovative and revolutionary any more, especially since their computational core has been changed very slightly compared with the “classical” representatives of Core microarchitecture. And it means that Core i7 will not delight us as much as Core 2 did when they came to replace Pentium 4.
The real revolution will happen when Nehalem processors come to servers. And although inertness of this market will hardly let these CPUs to quickly take over the segment despite all their advantages, servers with processors based on new Intel microarchitecture will definitely make the solutions much more attractive.
As a result, from the positions of the desktop CPU market, we could consider Nehalem just another refresh of Core microarchitecture along the evolutionary path starting with Conroe, then Penryn and now Nehalem. However, even in this case Intel will continue to remain an indisputable leader in the microprocessor market. Especially, since “Tick-Tock” concept is still there, which means that in a year from now Nehalem will move to finer 32nm process and in two years we will see another new microarchitecture.