Extreme Designs

Moving onto the Unparalleled Capabilities, Otellini split this into three parts, the first of which was Silicon Process Technology. Here he highlighted the difference between the current 65nm process and the soon to be launched 45nm parts. He made it clear that one of the major issues with shrinking the manufacturing process is leakage - one of the main reasons that the megahertz race stopped and the multi-core race started.

The big advancement with the 45nm process is High-K Metal Gate Dielectric, which provides vastly improved insulation and results in 10x reduction in gate leakage, while also allowing a 20 per cent increase in performance.

The best thing about the new 45nm process and the technology behind it, is that it's already here. Intel already has two 45nm fabs online, running out Penryn wafers, ready for the 12th November launch date. Meanwhile Fab 28 in Israel and Fab 11X in New Mexico will both go online in 2008 producing 45nm parts.

Although Penryn represents the first 45nm part for Intel, the architecture isn't really new. The coupling of a completely new architecture on a 45nm manufacturing process will arrive in the form of Nehalem, which represents a significant step for Intel on a number of levels.

Otellini revealed that Nehalem will be a modular solution, and that cores, threads or even cache can be switched on or off. There's little information about how dynamic this modular operation will be, but I can only assume that it will be easy to implement. Obviously the benefits that this would bring to mobile solutions would be significant, allowing a notebook CPU to switch off any resources that weren't being used, thus saving battery life.

Glenn Hinton - Chief Nehalem Architect - revealed that we'll see an eight core Nehalem chip by the end of 2008, but that each core will be able to run two threads, much like Intel's old Hyper Threading enabled Pentium 4s. This means that an eight core Nehalem CPU will be able to execute 16 threads concurrently!

Intel was also keen to point out the integrated memory controller in Nehalem, which sounds somehow familiar, almost as if other chips had incorporated this kind of technology years ago.

Glenn stated that significant improvements had been made in single threaded execution on Nehalem, which is important considering that much of what is run on PCs today still isn't multi-threaded. And when you couple improved single threaded execution with the ability to turn whole cores off, Nehalem looks like it could be the most efficient CPU Intel has ever produced.

Even more impressive was the fact that Glenn actually had a PC on stage, powered by a Nehalem chip. It was running Windows XP and spoke a few words to Paul, but even that is quite something for a CPU design that was only completed three weeks ago. Oh, and Apple fan boys will be glad to hear that Mac OS10 has successfully booted on a Nehalem platform.

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