Intel goes Banias to offer wireless mobility

Intel Corp.’s mobility platform, the Banias Platform, aims to create seamless wireless connectivity that works securely and effortlessly.

According to Lai Yit Loong, country manager, Intel Technology Asia, the Banias Platform involves various components, one of which is the inclusion of a new Banias CPU micro-architecture that can fulfill the requirements of the mobility vision.

At the Intel Developer Forum held recently, Paul Otellini, president and chief operating officer of Intel said that the Banias Platform aims to create entire chip subsystem tailored to mobile user.

Four new technologies were introduced to increase performance and reduce power consumption, Advanced Branch Prediction, Micro-Op Fusion, a Power Optimized Processor System Bus and Dedicated Stack Manager.

Advanced Branch Prediction analyzes past patterns of instructions passing through the chip and predicts which operations it is likely to request in the future, resulting in higher performance. When several operations are ready to execute at the same time, Micro-Op Fusion technology merges them into a single operation, which improves both performance and power efficiency.

Power Optimized Processor System Bus implements architectural and circuit innovations that allow lower voltage swing and tight buffer management resulting in lower power consumption by providing power only where it is needed.

Additionally, the Dedicated Stack Manager uses dedicated hardware to keep track of internal accounting, allowing the processor to execute program instructions without interruption. When combined, these technologies significantly improve performance without sacrificing battery life.

The Banias processor benefits from the components created during its development process, according to Anand Chandrasekher, Intel’s vice president and general manager of the Mobile Platforms Group. Two chipsets with integrated graphics, one with support for more complex graphics, were developed while working on Banias, he said. Also, the company was able to shrink the heat exchanger used with Banias products, reducing the size by half and the weight by two-thirds as compared to heat exchangers for Pentium 4-M processors, he said.

There are four vectors of mobility that Banias addresses to meet users’ needs, according to Don MacDonald, director, Mobile Platform Marketing, Intel. The first vector is the need to create less power consumption for more mobility. Second is the aim to create seamless wireless connectivity for mobility devices. According to Lai, these two factors, power management and wireless communications, are the current major inhibitors to mobility.

The third vector is the need to have high performance such as having smooth graphics when streaming live video and strong security performing in background. As the fourth vector for consideration, Banias targets smaller and lighter form factors to enable ease of use and reduce mobile thermal envelopes. Form factor ideas include creating tablet form, foldable keyboards and detachable modules.

The Banias Platform aims to support various wireless implementations through a Banias Wireless Coexistence System which will incorporate 802.11b and 802.11a on PCI as well as Bluetooth wireless technology on U.S.B module. The system will sport dual antennas, switching between wireless ecosystems seamlessly by collaborating signals between the two major standards.

To ensure strong wireless security, VeriSign will tailor its certificates and its Personal Trust Agent to notebooks based on Banias processors. This will allow notebook manufacturers to place security products directly onto notebooks in production.

With enterprises seriously looking into mobile platforms to increase productivity of its workers and replacing PC, creating a specific platform that is optimized for mobility becomes an imperative. For most office work, processing speed does not make any significant impact anymore.

Consumers’ notebooks are growing faster than PC and the next billion PC sales are going to come from mobility, said Lai. A striking example exists in Singapore where students are given loans for buying computers. Initially, it was believed that students would aim for low-end PCs, but it was discovered that with the loans and discounts, students are getting high-end laptops which they can use to roam around the wireless network within campus.

As a general trend, vendor support for mobility is also growing. June Chin, associate director, Product and Business Management, Fujitsu told Computerworld that Fujitsu will be considering the Banias Platform for improved performance in mobility in Tablet PC.

According to Otellini, Intel wants to create processors that allow developers to write applications for Intel desktops without having to rewrite significant amounts of code.

The first Banias chip is slated for release early next year, followed by a family of chip products based on Banias. Banias chips are expected to be introduced in ultrathin and lightweight products, while the existing Pentium 4-M notebook processors will occupy normal notebook form factor.

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