Intel puts energy consumption on its radar

SAN FRANCISCO – Intel Corp.’s next generation microprocessor technology products for mobile, desktop and server platforms will emphasize improved energy efficiency and increased power performance.

Energy and power are two key themes at this year’s Intel Developer Forum here, which officially kicked off Tuesday with keynote speeches from Intel executives. This year marks the 10th IDF conference, which is held twice a year in the spring and the fall.

Although he is here, Intel CEO Paul Otellini — who’s held the job only a year — did not address the conference. Instead, company CTO Justin Rattner delivered the conference’s first presentation, giving an overview of improvements to Intel Core microarchitecture over its existing Core Duo product.

“Energy is on everyone’s mind. It’s the next frontier,” said Rattner. “Not only has it become a critical concern in our daily lives, it has become a critical concern in every platform that we deal with.”

Since the first Pentium chip was introduced in 1993, every increase in performance has required an increase in the amount of energy expended, said Rattner. A chart comparing performance versus energy per instruction showed that the amount of energy has increased by a factor of four from 1993 to the Pentium 4 in 2005. Intel’s Celeron M Processor, which is used in mobile platforms, was the first of Intel’s processors that was successful at maintaining a constant level of energy per instruction. This combo of energy efficiency and performance has found its way into other platforms such as Intel’s Xeon and Core Duo chipsets.

“Today the IT manager is under pressure from many different fronts,” said Pat Gelsinger, senior vice-president and general manager of Intel’s Digital Enterprise Group. “Almost 80 per cent of a company’s IT budget is spent on keeping existing services running.”

At last year’s IDF, Intel had five dual core chips in silicon. This year, Intel has 12 of its products that it said will be delivered by year-end in dual core.

“By the end of this year, over 85 per cent of Intel’s server platforms will be dual core,” said Gelsinger, who also spoke at Monday’s keynote. Intel also plans on introducing multicore products to its offerings by 2007, he added.

That claim will be easier to do with the recent announcement that Hewlett-Packard Co. will launch seven new Proliant systems including workstations, servers and blade systems based on Intel’s upcoming Woodcrest microprocessor.

For Intel’s dual core chipsets, Merom (mobile), Conroe (desktop) and Woodcrest (server), the chip manufacturer is claiming from 20 to 80 per cent increase in performance, depending on the platform, and from 35 to 40 per cent reduction in power consumption. All of these platforms will be based on 65 nanometre (nm) silicon technology. Intel plans to start developing chips on 45 nm silicon by this year with plans to release products next year.

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