Saturday, June 7, 2008

Some technical updates... Computer Hardware...

Intel Redesigned 45 nm Nehalem chips on track Will Ship in Forth Quarter2008

Link for this Post: Intel says Nehalem chips on track for '08 2nd half

I'm excited. I've been waiting to have a new workstation built until Intel's new design processor code-named Nehalem ships. Here is the latest news:

SAN FRANCISCO, May 21 (Reuters) - Intel Corp is on track to ship its next generation of computer processors, code-named Nehalem, in the second half of this year, Chief Executive Paul Otellini said on Wednesday.

"Nehalem ... is still scheduled to launch in the second half of the year," Otellini told the company's annual meeting of shareholders.

He also confirmed plans to quickly increase output of computer processors made with the latest technology, which can etch circuits 45 nanometers wide, 30 percent smaller than previous chips using a 65-nanometer process.

"On 45 nanometers, Intel is leading the industry by a long stretch," Otellini said. "We are on track to cross over in (the third quarter) of this year, so more than half our processors will be made on 45 nanometers."

Figuring that the chip will really only be available for real human beings by First Quarter 2009, now I have a timeframe to save my money for.


Intel Penryn, Skulltrail performance revealed-TechReport


Link for this Post: Intel Penryn, Skulltrail performance revealed - TechReport

Above is The guts of a Skulltrail demo box from this TechReport Article: Here is an excerpt from the piece.

The Skulltrail mobo has four FB-DIMM slots, allowing it to host up to 8GB of memory. (We're hearing rumors that memory makers may step up with FB-DIMMs that run at low latencies--as low as CL3--and at clock speeds above 800MHz.) The mobo's two CPU sockets will house a pair of Extreme Edition processors in a Xeon-style LGA771 package. The board itself isn't especially large given everything it can accommodate, but it fits into the EATX form factor, not the smaller standard ATX.

As you may have gathered, Skulltrail systems will not be cheap. In fact, when these systems arrive late this year or early next, Intel expects to charge a premium for Skulltrail hardware beyond what it asks for traditional workstation-class parts. That will put Skulltrail firmly into the domain of high-end botique PC builders and, well, the criminally insane. We'd still like to see an affordable dual-socket solution from Intel or AMD that caters to DIYers with more reasonable budgets.

At least the focus on ultra-high-end hardware will simplify the overclocking situation. Intel says it will offer a truly flexible and tweakable BIOS in its motherboard, but Intel boards have rarely matched the best boards from Taiwan on this front. Since Skulltrail's Extreme Edition processors--Penryn-based quad-core beasts with clock speeds in excess of 3GHz and 12MB of L2 cache--will come with unlocked upper multipliers, hitting record FSB speeds shouldn't be necessary.

Fortunately for the less-than-filthy rich, one should be able to build a Skulltrail box on an installment plan. The board will operate just fine with only one processor installed. So here's the plan: build a box with one CPU and one graphics card. Then add a second CPU later. And then perhaps another graphics card. And another. And maybe one more, when your credit limit will allow.


Intel's Stoakley platform and 45nmXeons

Link for this Post: Intel's Stoakley platform and 45nm Xeons In the wake of AMD's Barcelona, Intel counterby Scott Wasson in TchReport. Here are some excerpts from this article:

... Penryn" is the codename for the family of processors based on Intel's 45nm fab process, and this same silicon will serve a number of markets in various configurations. For the server and workstation markets, the bread-and-butter Penryn derivative will be "Harpertown," a dual-chip, quad-core product that supersedes the current quad-core "Clovertown" Xeons. Intel also has plans for a single-chip, dual-core variant known as "Wolfdale."

All Penryn derivatives will be manufactured via Intel's 45nm high-k chip fabrication process, which the company has hailed as a breakthrough and a fundamental restructuring of the transistor. Despite the fanfare, the change brings gains that were once considered fairly conventional for process shrinks. Intel says the 45nm high-k process has twice the transistor density, a 20% increase in switching speed, and a 30% reduction in switching power versus its 65nm process. Improvements of that order are nothing to scoff at these days, nor is Intel's manufacturing might. The firm already has two fabs making the 45nm conversion in the second half of 2007, Fab D1D in Oregon and Fab 32 in Arizona. Fab 28 in Israel will follow in the first half of next year, along with Fab 11X in New Mexico in the second half of '08. 45nm processors should make up the majority of its output by then.

Harpertown Xeons and their Penryn-based cousins are not just die-shrunk versions of current chips, but they do retain the same basic layout. The quad-core parts are comprised of two dual-core chips situated together in a single LGA771-style package. This two-chip arrangement isn't as neatly integrated as AMD's "native quad-core" Opterons--the two chips can communicate with one another only by means of the relatively slow front-side bus--but it has the advantage of making chips easier to manufacture. The approximately 463 million transistors of AMD's Barcelona are packed into an area that's 283 mm² via AMD's 65nm SOI fab process. That's a relatively large area over which AMD must avoid defects. By contrast, current 65nm Xeons are based on two chips, each roughly 341 million transistors and measuring just 143 mm². Each chip in a Harpertown Xeon crams 410 million transistors into an even smaller 107 mm² area. One can argue that AMD's approach to quad-core processors is more elegant, but it's hard to argue with the Penryn family's tiny die area.

Penryn's CPUs themselves may need the extra bandwidth, thanks to a handful of tweaks. One of the most prominent: a new, faster divider capable of handling both integer and floating-point numbers. This new radix-16-based design processes four bits per cycle, versus two bits in prior designs, and includes an optimized square root function. An early-out algorithm in the divider can lead to lower instruction latencies in some cases, as well. Penryn also extends the Core microarchitecture's 128-bit single cycle SSE capabilities to shuffle operations, doubling execution throughput there. This is not a new instruction but an optimization for existing instructions, so no software changes are required to take advantage of this capability. The faster shuffle should be useful in formatting and setting up data for use in other SSE-based vector operations.

Speaking of SSE and new instructions, SSE4 is finally here in Penryn. These aren't just the Supplemental SSE3 instructions supported in the first rev of the Core microarchitecture, but 47 all-new instructions aimed at video acceleration, basic graphics operations (including dot products), and the integration and control of coprocessors over PCIe. These instructions will, of course, require updated software support


Harpertown Xeons pack some additional Penryn goodness, such as store forwarding and virtualization improvements, but they do not have the nifty "dynamic acceleration tech" intended for desktop Penryn derivatives. Those chips will have the ability to raise their clock speeds beyond their stock ratings, while staying within their appointed thermal envelopes, when one core is idle and the other is busy with a heavily single-threaded workload. Such trickery may be too fancy for the button-down world of servers and workstations, at least in its first-generation form.

Interestingly, Intel is toying with another, more permanent possibility for some future Xeon products: disabling one core on each of the two chips in a package in order to yield a dual-core solution that has 6MB of dedicated L2 cache per core. This move could allow a distinctive mix of single-threaded performance (as dictated by both cache sizes and clock speeds) within a given power envelope.


VR-Zone Intel Harpertown Model Number & Clock SpeedUnveiled

Link for this Post: VR-Zone Intel Harpertown Model Number & Clock Speed Unveiled

Deepak Jain

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