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Intel’s quad core chips a month away

CEO touts 'need for speed' for new generation of CPUs

SAN FRANCISCO – Intel Corp. will release its first quad core platform in November, promising increased performance and energy efficiency over its current processors.

The Intel Core 2 Extreme quad-core processor will feature a 70 per cent performance improvement over today’s Intel Core 2 Extreme platform, executives said here Tuesday at the company’s annual developers forum.

Starting in November, Intel will ship the Quad-Core Intel Xeon processor 5300 series brand for dual processor servers. A low-power 50-watt Quad-Core Intel Xeon processor L5310 for blade servers is slated for shipment in the beginning of 2007. The mainstream quad-core processor, called the Intel Core 2 Quad processor, which will be aimed initially at the gaming market, will ship early next year.

The company argues that with increased computing power required by PC games, desktop search, graphics-intensive operating systems and the popularity of video streaming sites, users require more power from their machines today.

“Speed matters again,” said Intel president and CEO Paul Otellini. “Performance matters again after four or five years.”

Otellini’s comments contrast a movement in the microprocessor industry over the last several years from a focus speed to energy efficiency. Otellini characterized this swing as the “biggest computer shift in over a decade.”

Intel already has 13 PC manufacturers lined up to launch products featuring quad-core server processors this fall, including Gateway, Dell, Alienware and Canadian system builder Voodoo PC.

Quad core computing will allow vendors to sell x86 platforms into higher value workloads such as data warehousing, ERP and CRM, said Alan Freedman, research manager for infrastructure hardware at IDC Canada, who was reached by telephone in Toronto on Tuesday.

Freedman said this contradicts some industry experts who predict quad core computing means the end of Unix and RISC-based systems in the enterprise data centre.

“Quad core will not replace Unix,” he said. “It will give x86 vendors a leg to stand on.”

Because of its large installed base and applications specific to the platform, x86 systems will be around for some time, said Freedman.

Otellini also updated Intel’s R&D efforts, announcing it will introduce a 45-nanometre (nm) processor in the second half of 2007. At last year’s IDF, Intel introduced a 65-nm CPU, which is now outpacing shipments of the 90-nm processor. The 45-nm micro processor will offer a 20 per cent improvement in performance over the current CPUs and will be part of the Nehalem microarchitecture, scheduled to be released in 2008.

Intel also revealed a details of a prototype teraflop computer on a chip that contains 80 simple cores and operates at 3.1 GHz. The chip won’t be available for another five years.

The conference wraps up on Thursday.