Intel’s dual-core push results in diversion

By the end of 2005, Intel Corp. will have shifted all of its processor designs for everything from notebook chips to symmetric multiprocessor (SMP) servers to dual-core chips, resulting in the discontinuation of two single-core processors on its current road maps.

The Tejas and Jayhawk processors have been removed from Intel’s road map, said Bill Kircos, an Intel spokesperson. They will be replaced by dual-core versions whose code names have not been disclosed, he said.

Tejas was scheduled to be the replacement for the currently available Prescott Pentium 4, and Jayhawk was to follow Nocona, Intel’s first Xeon processor for servers with 64-bit extensions technology. Engineers working on both those processors have been assigned to dual-core projects, Kircos said.

“The way the usage models are going, the advantages of dual cores becomes more apparent,” Kircos said.

Dual core processors are just what they appear to be: two processor cores on a single die. Chip designers have been gravitating toward this design because it allows them to use two lower-power cores to improve performance rather than depending on a high-frequency single core for performance improvements.

The decision to cancel Tejas and Jayhawk was not related to any engineering or manufacturing difficulties in getting those chips ready for volume production, Kircos said. Reports had indicated that both chips consumed a great deal of power, even more than the Prescott processor released earlier this year.

Intel realized that it could accelerate the development of the dual core products to the point where it made more business sense to head in that direction, he said.

Sources close to the company have indicated that Intel is planning to shift its primary architecture from the Netburst architecture that currently runs the Xeon and Pentium 4 processors to the Banias architecture of the Pentium M processor. The Banias architecture consumes much less power than the Netburst architecture, and two Pentium M cores would be much easier to integrate onto a single die than two Netburst cores, sources and analysts said this week.

However, one source familiar with the company’s plans indicated Friday that the first dual-core Xeon DP processor would keep the Netburst architecture. Intel simply has too much investment wrapped up in the architecture that has served it well for so many years to dump it now, the source said.

Integrating two power-hungry Netburst cores onto a single die represents an engineering challenge for Intel. But server vendors are reluctant to shift gears as quickly as PC vendors when it comes to introducing new products, and would prefer to make the transition to dual-core without the additional burden of validating a new architecture, the source said.

The Intel spokesperson declined to confirm what architecture will be used for either the new Xeon chip or the new desktop processor.

According to sources, the Yonah processor is expected to be the first dual-core Pentium chip designed for notebooks. It will be followed by Merom, which is expected to be either the second dual-core Pentium M processor for notebooks or the first dual-core processor for both desktops and notebooks.

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