Intel seeks new market opportunities with Nehalem-EX

Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) yesterday unveiled details about its upcoming next-generation Nehalem product eight-core processor, code-named Nehalem-EX, which is scheduled to go into production later this year.

Boyd Davis, general manager of server platforms, group marketing at Intel, provided an overview of the upcoming processor. Nehalem-EX, he said, is designed to be an intelligent expandable platform and will feature up to eight cores inside of a single chip and will have two threads per core and 24MB of shared cache. In addition, it will also have 2.3 billion transistors and will feature Intel’s Turbo Boost technology, which helps to increase the processor’s overall performance. Davis says with the launch of Nehalem-EX, the intent is to move away from costly, RISC (reduced instruction set computing)-based proprietary RISC-processor based systems, to more of a building block server one, where systems and solutions can be developed on top of it.

“This is going after a market that was limited to being served by risk architecture,” Davis said. “We think Nehalem-EX will represent a pretty significant opportunity on the overall server and hardware market.”

Warren Shiau, a senior associate and lead analyst for IT research at Toronto-based The Strategic Counsel, said the transition away from RISC-based architecture will most likely lower any barriers of entry that may have been present before in the marketplace.

“Anytime you move from a closed market to an open one, the channel will tend to have more competitive opportunities open up to them,” Shiau said. “Instead of being say a Sun or HP specific partner, for instance, you’re now someone who can potentially go in and service more accounts.”

Compared to Intel’s current Xeon 7400 processor series, Nehalem-EX will have roughly twice the amount of memory capacity and 2.7 times the number of threads, 1.5 times the number of cache and four high-bandwidth QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) links, he added.

“We expect Nehalem-EX to do well in the high performance computing (HPC) and virtualization spaces,” Davis said. “With the increased level of memory bandwidth and floating point throughput and database performance, we think this will have a great effect on the (market).”

So far, Davis said there are more than 15 designs from eight original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), with the possibility of more during or after Nehalem-EX’s release date.

New enhancements to Nehalem-EX also include reliability, availability and serviceability (RAS) features, which are also in Intel’s Itanium processor line, which includes Machine Check Architecture (MCA) Recovery.

This added capability is brand new to the Nehalem product family, Davis explained, and will help businesses lower their total cost of ownership. With MCA Recovery, errors can be isolated on a virtual machine and the other machines can still run uninterrupted while that one is being restarted.

“The more memory you have, the more susceptible you are to errors in memory,” Davis said. “There are particles in the atmosphere that can cause errors and MCA Recovery can observe and report on any error that has occurred in the system. It will allow for previously uncorrectable errors to contain, correct and recover without having to force a system restart.”

Several years ago, the infrastructure costs to run an enterprise application such as SAP or Oracle, may only have been open to enterprise-sized businesses, that could afford it, Warren explained. Now because of technology advancements and decreased costs, mid-market customers can now start affording this too, he added.

Nehalem EX is expected to go into production in the second half of this year and will be available on systems in 2010, Davis said.

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Maxine Cheung
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