Intel prepares for future of computing

With the IT industry apparently recovered from the downturn of recent years, Intel Corp. will spend its Spring Intel Developer Forum (IDF) talking about what it considers technology’s next era: increasing mobility, the digital home, and the “tera era” of large data sets and complex applications, executives said Monday.

Intel typically devotes the biannual IDF conference, to a review of its progress over the previous six months and a preview of upcoming products and in-development technologies. This edition, scheduled for Feb. 17 through Feb. 19, will focus on not only the technological achievements of its research and development labs but on ways to integrate those technologies into IT projects that make sense in the real world.

Simultaneously with the regular IDF, Intel plans to host the inaugural Solutions Conference targeted at IT managers, software developers and other audiences traditionally outside of its usual attendee base of hardware developers and partners. The Santa Clara, California, company has done this at IDF conferences in other geographies for some time, and decided that the approach would also work well in the U.S., said John Davies, vice-president in Intel’s sales and marketing group and director of the solutions market development group. Both conferences are being held in San Francisco.

Speakers at the Solutions Conference will talk about Intel’s focus on bringing technology to specific vertical industries such as health care or manufacturing, as well as Intel’s own strategies for deploying technology across the company, Davies said.

But the main news will still flow out of the Systems Conference. Intel Chief Executive Officer Craig Barrett will kick off the show next Tuesday with a speech discussing why he believes Intel has emerged from the recession as a stronger company, said Pat Gelsinger, senior vice-president and chief technology officer at Intel. Barrett will also show some of the products and technologies that will maintain that strength into the future, he said.

Intel Vice-President and General Manager Louis Burns of the Desktop Platforms Group will follow Barrett later on Tuesday with further details around Intel’s digital home strategy. Intel spent much of the recent Consumer Electronics Show promoting its entertainment PC concept and upcoming Grantsdale chipset, and will probably do so again at IDF.

On the second day of IDF, Intel’s Mike Fister, senior vice-president and general manager of the enterprise platforms group will talk about the future of Intel’s Xeon and Itanium processor lines. Fister will be joined by Bill Siu, vice-president and general manager of the Desktop Platforms Group, who will discuss the next generation of desktop processors and chipsets that will boost performance on today’s software as well as future programs, Gelsinger said.

This could be the spot where Intel demonstrates its long-awaited x86 extensions technology. Sources have indicated that Intel plans to demonstrate a processor with 64-bit extensions to the 32-bit x86 instruction set during IDF, but it isn’t clear whether Intel plans to show a desktop processor or a server chip.

The company plans to announce an “enhanced Intel Xeon processor for dual processor servers and workstations” during the show, according to a prebriefing for reporters. Dual processor servers and workstations have been the primary vehicle for Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s Opteron processor with x86 extensions technology that has been adopted by major server vendors such as IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc.

Tuesday afternoon’s keynote will be hosted by Anand Chandrasekher, vice president and general manager of the mobile platforms group. It has been almost a year since Intel introduced its Centrino mobile package of chips for notebooks, and Chandrasekher plans to review the progress of the past year as well as drop hints about the future of the Centrino package in different types of clients besides notebooks, Gelsinger said.

Sean Maloney will start the third day of IDF with his first speech as the head of the new Intel Communications Group. Maloney, executive vice-president and general manager of the group, will talk about “the broadband wireless wave,” or what the rest of the world knows as the WiMax metro-area networking technology, Gelsinger said. Maloney will also make an announcement about Intel’s next generation flash memory technology, he said.

As usual, Gelsinger will end the conference with a look behind the walls of Intel Labs. This time around the talk will focus on the “tera era,” or the emergence of applications and data sets that require terabytes of memory or terabits per second of bandwidth, Gelsinger said.

New architectures and enhancements to existing hardware will be needed to make that era possible, Gelsinger said. These architectures will also create new applications in areas such as visual recognition or graphics virtualization that aren’t possible with today’s technology. Most of those applications won’t be ready until the end of the decade, but some might emerge sooner, he said.

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