by Anton Shilov
03/28/2007 | 01:57 PM
Intel Corp., the biggest maker of x86 microprocessors in the world, on Wednesday unveiled previously unknown details about its forthcoming microprocessors which are expected to be produced in 2008. The new chips code-named Nehalem will not only have new micro-architecture, but will also use new platform architecture and feature built-in memory controllers as well as graphics cores.
The first mentions about Nehalem processors and micro-architecture were made in 2002 and at that time it was believed that the chip would succeed the NetBurst micro-architecture sometime in 2006 – 2007 timeframe. However, at some point the company decided to spend more time with the drawing board and development of the next-generation micro-architecture took quite a long time, which made the world’s largest chipmaker to come up with the Core 2 chips, which were still much faster compared to those based on the NetBurst micro-architecture. But next year Intel’s Nehalem is set to shine, as currently it seems that Nehalem is more than just a new micro-architecture, it is a fully-new concept for both microprocessors and platforms.
Intel claims that Nehalem as well as Westmere central processing units will use a new platform architecture and while the company does not directly state it, the new platform will hardly use processor system busses, but rather will feature point-to-point serial bus (which is currently referred to as Common Serial Bus or CSI) similar to Hyper-Transport or PCI Express.
The Nehalem chips themselves, as well as their derivatives, will feature so-called dynamically scalable architecture, which means that Intel will be able to tailor its processor designs according to needs of various market segments. It remains to be seen whether the company plans to create multi-chip modules, thanks to high-speed serial point-to-point bus, or would rather tailor its monolithic chips easily enough to offer a very broad lineup of solutions.
Intel says that Nehalem processors will have from one to eight (or even more) cores, each of which will support simultaneous multi-threading capability akin to the well-known Hyper-Threading. The company does not go into details and reveal whether all Nehalem central processing units will have monolithic of multi-chip designs, but says that the processors will have shared caches, which points to at lease a number of monolithic implementations in the lineup.
Another important innovation of Nehalem architecture is on-chip memory controller, something available now on microprocessors by Advanced Micro Devices.
But, perhaps, the most important feature of Nehalem will be “high performance integrated graphics” core on certain Nehalem designs, which, in conjunction with CSI, on-chip memory controller and some other innovations of Nehalem, will allow the company to create very small mobile and pretty powerful, yet cost-efficient, microprocessors for mainstream markets.
Intel plans to start production of various Nehalem processors using high-k 45nm process technology in 2008, whereas in 2009 the company intends to manufacture Nehalem-derivative code-named Westmere using 32nm fabrication process.