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9. Intel Shows-Off Octa-Core Microprocessors, Plans to Start Shipments in Late 2009

In late May Intel Corp. officially unwrapped its next-generation microprocessor designed for high-end multi-processor servers. The new chip not only boasts with eight processing cores with Hyper-Threading technology, but the new multi-processor (MP) server platform also features functionality traditionally found in the company’s Itanium processor family.

Intel has been offering the fastest processors on different market ever since it introduced its Core 2 micro-architecture into the appropriate segments. The latest achievement of Intel is six-core Intel Xeon “Dunnington” chip that the giant began to ship in September ’08, eight or nine months ahead of competing offering from Advanced Micro Devices.

But the octa-core code-named Beckton (Nehalem-EX) is not exactly a success story. When Intel showcased its code-named Nehalem microprocessor at Intel Developer Forum Fall 2007, the company indicated plans to ship its eight-core Xeon microprocessors in 2008.

“At the largest configuration that we'll ship in 2008, they'll be an eight-core product. Eight core on one die, and each core will have two threads. So, each eight-core die will be supporting 16 threads,” said Paul Otellini, chief executive officer and president of Intel Corp., at that time.

However, this year Intel said it would produce its Xeon MP “Nehalem” processors in late 2009 and servers on their base will be launched in 2010. Intel already has over 15 design wins from 8 OEMs with its new MP platform.  

Even though eight-core Xeon MP processors will be available considerably later than Intel originally claimed, the new chips will offer something that no Xeon processor ever provided. In fact, Intel claims that the next-generation Xeon MP platform will be able to compete against proprietary RISC processor-based systems, the market that Intel traditionally targeted with its Itanium microprocessors.  


For example, thanks to point-to-point Quick-Path interconnection (QPI), for the first time in history Intel plans to offer its customers eight-socket platform, which is capable of processing up to 128 threads simultaneously in case of eight-core processors with HyperThreading enabled. Additional scalability options including greater sockets counts will be possible with third-party solutions. Moreover, the forthcoming Nehalem-EX will add new reliability, availability and serviceability (RAS) features traditionally found in Intel Itanium processor family, such as machine check architecture (MCA) recovery.  

So, while the new chips contain unprecedented number of x86 processing engines on the single piece of silicon, they will offer much more than that. The only question now is how successful will Intel’s eight-core Xeon MP chips be against AMD’s twelve-core Opteron microprocessors due in Q1 2010. 

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