IDF Fall 2009: Building Computing Continuum

12th IDF has started this morning in San Francisco gathering over 4,000 attendees and members of the press. World’s first 22 nm wafer, Westmere architecture, new industry strategies – all this and even more in our reports from the forum.

by Anna Filatova
09/22/2009 | 01:44 PM


IDF 2009 kicked off with an introduction by Sean Maloney, Executive VP of Intel Architecture Group, who pointed out that even though it was the 12th year of IDF’s, it was this time that there was a real sense of optimism and innovation here. But it hadn’t always been like that. This year there are over 4000 attendees at the IDF. 400 are from consumer electronic industry, over 600 from software industry, over 500 - from other industries such as energy, healthcare and financial services. Such diversity is part of the way of making computing personal, which is certainly good for everyone.

And why, we are going to find out from the presentation by Paul Otellini, President and Chief Executive Officer of Intel Corporation.

Spectrum of Computing and Computing Continuum

The world of computing is expanding to a much bigger space. Over the past several years Intel was developing Intel architecture solutions that increased the opportunities beyond the traditional notion of a PC. They are called the spectrum of computing on Intel architecture.

This spectrum includes a variety of devices, such as internet-connected devices, PC clients and servers. However, building these devices is one thing and making them all work together in a seamless and at the same time familiar fashion so that we could take advantage of them – is a completely different task. It is called building the computing continuum. It should help breaking down barriers and extending the computing beyond the common boundaries.  Over the years Intel and partners have been focusing on speed, size and battery life, which are important, but now bandwidth, user networking, and even tweaks take over most of everyone’s attention as being the primary goals.

So, building computer continuum is Intel’s ultimate goal at this point therefore let’s talk about how they propose to build it. There are three parts to building this continuum:

Moore's Law Alive and Well: 22 nm wafer Demoed

The first part is technology. Now Intel creates and evolves another generation of standards. There are three essential technologies: Moore’s law, platform architecture that takes advantage of silicon technology, and the last is software. The proper combination of three allows building the continuum.

Intel has always been in pursuit of the Moore’s law:

And they are not stopping. The next generation of silicon is 32 nm. It makes it economically feasible for Intel to manufacture billion+ transistors in mass volume. They have already reached yields to make it high volume production. Intel started to manufacture Westmere already preparing for shipping these processors in Q4 of this year.

However, Intel is not stopping at 32 nm and the next milestone is going to be 22 nm. At this point they couldn’t show a picture yet, but they did show the world’s first working 22 nm silicon technology:

These are chips built with third-generation high-k metal gate technology, featuring 2.9 billion transistors. It is living proof that Intel’s Moore’s law is alive and well.

Inel Platform Architecture: Atom and SOC

The second block forming the technology segment for building computer continuum is Intel platform architecture. As you may remember from our previous IDF reports, Intel introduced “tick-tock” concept several years ago. They have been sticking to it for many generations in a row and it continues into today. Westmere is a new scalable architecture. Now graphics has been integrated into the microprocessor. Looking forward to the 22 nm they are ready tom offer significant new design of the processors which will take advantage of the silicon technology that we have just seen.

As we see, Intel has a new core coming out every two years.  They have also announced moving the production of Atom core into TSMC. This way they should be able to reach to new customers through volume and to use it for wide variety of devices for new markets.

Intel considered making the shift into doing even more SOCs. Of course, they couldn’t stop doing what they have done so far especially after seeing the success. For the same product lines Intel is prepared to offer 22% increase in performance. And this new technology will go into products like Westmere. Intel will increase the scaling capability of their chips and provide 30x reduction in leakage. Increasing the production of system on chip solutions and enhancing the technology behind them will allow Intel to supply for wider variety of markets. Over five years or so Paul Otellini predicted that Intel Corporation would eventually ship more SOC devices per year than processors.


The third block forming the technology segment essential for building the continuum is software. However, it is changing dramatically. Paul admitted that most of his career he talked about client servers. Today it is not true. There are multiple clients, very different clients. Intel is very committed to developer community and giving them tools for development. Over the past years they have acquired over 10 companies to be able to deliver the tools needed. Wright now Intel has the third largest ISP program in the world. 136,000 students were taught how to program on multi-core environment and benefit from it.

Building the Computing Continuum

Those are the fundamental technology foundations. But how do we actually build the continuum?

Of course, Paul couldn’t proceed without talking about the PC market.

However, he is certain that it is actually better than what the slide shows. As many of you know this is the time of the worst recession in years. But as we can see, Intel and partners have built something that is indispensable and fundamental day in and day out.

For example, they have recently introduced a new branding scheme including Core i3, i5 and i7. And they intend to stick to it. Not so long ago Intel launched Core i7, then they have recently launched new versions of Core i7 and new Core i5, and early next year the company will announce Core i3. One of the things Intel has been very proud of is working closely with Microsoft on the Windows 7 operating system launch, which they are very excited about it. Paul is certain that they have done first class job here. In particular, Intel was focusing on faster boot up, optimized performance and most importantly for notebook users - much better optimization for battery life preservation.

So, how do we build the continuum in major industry segments? What is being done?


Let’s start with the Enterprise. In many ways with Windows 7 we will see new platforms offer up to three times the performance. Manageability around the environment results in 30% reduction in operating costs. The ability to run legacy XP applications under Windows 7 is another great advantage. But most importantly, the IT managers will be able to offer their users security without compromise. For example, here is an Arrandale dual-core laptop system with Westmere processor inside vs. a three-year old PC:

This setup is running a WinZIP application: it is half way through on Arrandale even before it starts on the old system.


Now let’s move to mainstream. According to statistics 62% of videos online are user generated content and most are under 2 minutes long. We’ve done a lot on optimizing the work of different devices used for creating and sharing content.

Here is an example of a device like that. Another demo showed Arrandale laptop working faster with pictures and video.

Internet-Connected Devices

Increasingly Intel is focused on internet-connected devices. To maintain this focus they created Atom architecture that had tremendous effect on this part of the market:

But it is not just the silicon. The software environment is equally complex and unique. And today Intel is also investing a lot of efforts into working around Atom and software environments.

For example, Atom based netbook volume is growing. But they need better applications environment for even faster growth. Today at the IDF Intel announced that Adobe and Microsoft were supporting both Moblin and Windows operating systems. And you will see Atom based software environments get even more widespread.

Also today Intel officially announced Intel Atom Developer Program.

Within this program they are working on a framework that will allow customers to bring the whole bunch of applications to end users. The first three companies to participate in this program are Asus, Acer and Dell. It will start in netbook segment and will expand into continuum. Intel’s contribution will be to deliver developer tools and support for this initiative.

The next area for Atom is connected devices in embedded world. For example, in-vehicle infotainment. It is growing even despite the drop in auto- and moto-sales. Solutions like that used to be unique for each maker and their base was entirely rebuilt every time. Now Intel is working to introduce joint standards and they are starting to see the growth.


Last area is handhelds. The main goal here is to reduce power, size and increase performance.

But it is clear that these new platforms need new type of software. Today at IDF they for the first time demonstrated Moblin v2.1 operating system for handhelds.

The last question at this point is what’s in it for developers? There is Intel architecture that you can build on and scale into all these markets. In 2004 Intel talked about convergence of computing and communications. Now it is so yesterday. It was a stepping stone back then that served its purpose well. Now they simply want to have all these devices interoperate in seamless fashion. And technology is masking it possible. Intel has every intention to continue to support this initiative. On the research side they will continue to drive the future of mobile devices. For example, in the past few months part of their “sponsors of tomorrow” campaign included building billboards where they asked people to text in their ideas about what they want from technology of the future. Intel has been receiving 24,000 of suggestions a day and some of them were pretty inspiring.

Paul Otellini concluded by saying that is going to take the energy and collaboration of everyone in this room and in the entire industry to make these ideas happen. And invited everyone to join the initiative to the best of our ability.