Intel unveils five processors, chipset for embedded market

Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) Wednesday unveiled five new processors and a chipset for the embedded market.

The quad-core and dual-core Xeon processors are being built with the company’s new 45 nanometer (nm) process and will take advantage of Intel’s new transistor design.

At the same time, Intel announced that it will extend life cycle support for the new processors to seven years from the traditional five years.

“It’s good news from the standpoint that Intel continues to be dedicated to the market,” said Jim McGregor, an analyst at In-Stat in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Funny, when you think Intel, you don’t think embedded stuff. But they’ve been in the market for 15 to 20 years. Their embedded group is a billion dollar business. Historically, it was a matter of taking what came from the traditional computing market and supporting it for longer life cycles. But over the last few years, they’ve really modified that and their embedded group has a lot more engineering expertise.”

Doug Davis, general manager of Intel’s embedded and communications group, said the company has long supported embedded Xeon processors, and that this announcement extends that support to 45nm versions of the hardware. The new processors are using the same transistors and the same 45nm process as the new Penryn family of chips.

Intel also announced that customers will have two chipset options, including a new version unveiled with the new processors. Davis explained that the new system is based on a re-designed Intel 5000P chipset that improves power efficiency. The newly designed chipset, the 5100 Memory Controller Hub, will be available along with the older 5000P.

“With 5100 you get a lower power solution. You can get a 67 per cent performance per watt power increase over the 5000P chipset,” he added. “For instance, in the communications infrastructure space, a company might be designing a multimedia platform, and they might have a blade with tight thermal specification. Maybe they would specify the 5100.”

A chipset is paired with all of Intel’s processors. A chipset is a group of integrated circuits that enable the processor to talk to the memory and other devices in the system, like a USB port or an optical interface. It’s the hub of data transfer.

The new 5100 chipset is primarily expected to handle all of the memory interface, according to Davis. It also can address up to 48GB of data.

“Compared to the 5000P, they’re two completely different technologies,” said Davis. “The 5000P supports fully buffered memory. It can address a lot of that, but it takes more components to support fully buffered memory. It was designed for big database servers. It creates challenges in the embedded space because it took more components and used more power because of the buffering. The 5100 uses less power because it doesn’t have to deal with all the buffering.”

As for adding the newly designed transistor, Davis explained that it’s giving the processors greater performance per watt.

“The transistor switching speed went up more than 20 per cent compared to the transistors on the older 65nm chips, and reduced power consumption by 30 per cent,” he added. “That means you combine the higher switching speed and lower switching power, and you get great performance per watt compared to 65nm. We can do a better job of controlling power and give them much more performance in that same power footprint.”

The 45nm processors and the new 5100 chipset are available immediately.

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