Fall IDF

Moving along a path of energy-efficient computing, Intel Corp. has pledged technology evolution in microprocessors that will improve performance per watt by 300 per cent by the end of the decade.

Speaking to attendees at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, Intel president and CEO Paul Otellini said this goal would be achieved through continued evolution of Intel’s semiconductor manufacturing technology.

Today, the company uses 65nm process for microprocessor design and by 2008, it plans to reduce that to a 45nm design process. By the end of 2010, Otellini said, Intel aims to achieve 32nm microprocessor design.

“We’re not going to slow down on Moore’s Law; we have the design and capability to make it happen,” the Intel president said. He was referring to Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, who made a popular observation – or forecast – that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles every year.

Otellini said Intel is in the process of establishing three 45nm production facilities in Oregon, Arizona and Israel, investing a total of US$9 billion. The Oregon facility alone, scheduled to be operational by the second half of 2007, consists of 212,000 square feet of production space, Otellini added.

The Intel chief executive also announced details of its newest quad-core processors for PCs and high-volume servers. Dubbed Intel Core 2 Extreme Quad-Core processor, it targets game developers and is expected to ship in November. It features a 70 per cent improvement in performance over its predecessor Intel Core2 Extreme, said Otellini.

Quad-core computing allows game developers to deliver a dynamic and versatile environment for the player, said Markus Maki, founder and chairman of gaming software development firm Remedy.

Maki demonstrated a new game his company has developed using Intel’s new quad-core processors. The game, which involves physics simulation, would have been impossible to create using a single-core processor, he said.

Mainstream quad-core processor, to be called Intel Core 2 Quad Processor, is expected to ship by first quarter of 2007, along with the new low-power 50-watt Quad-Core Intel Xeon processor L5310 for blade servers. The Quad-Core Intel Xeon processor 5300 series brand for dual processor servers will be shipped this year.

Quad-core processing is expected to significantly improve efficiency in the enterprise data centres, which are increasingly demanding greater computing performance with less energy consumption, said Otellini.

One IT vendor agreed. “Customers in the data centre care about less power consumption in a smaller footprint,” said Tom Barton, CEO of Rackable Systems, an x86 server and storage vendor based in Milpitas, Calif.

Rackable Systems is involved in a number of large-scale data centre deployments and counts for its customers Yahoo, Amazon and Microsoft. Barton said he expects the sale of Intel-based servers to grow by “a factor of five” and a big reason for that is the improvement in energy efficiency on Intel products.

A 22-unit server rack, for instance, can make up 320 processing cores using Intel’s Quad-core processors and it only takes up less than four square feet of data centre space, said Barton.

The Quad-Core processor follows months after Intel launched its Core Duo microprocessor brand last July. Over a six-month period since its launch, Intel has shipped over five million core duo chips to the market, said Otellini.

For the first time at IDF, an Apple executive spoke at the event to give attendees an update on the company’s recent transition of its entire Mac product line over to Intel-based microprocessors. In February, Apple shipped its first notebook with Intel Core Duo called Mac Book Pro.

A month later, Mac Mini was also outfitted with the Core Duo processor. The Workstation Mac Pro desktop was also launched with Intel Xeon dual core chips, making it the faster Mac product ever made, said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice-president of worldwide product marketing.

This year, Apple’s market share in the notebook space increased from six per cent in January to 12 per cent in the summer and a significant reason for that is the new Intel-based Mac notebooks, said Schiller.

“Performance per watt really mattered to deliver a good product,” said Schiller. “With this transition (to Intel microprocessors) is just the beginning of what Apple and Intel can do to together to bring to the market the best products.”

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