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Intel’s quad core chips about to see daylight

Chipmaker insists users are demanding speed for online searches, video streaming and games

San Francisco – Intel Corp. will release its first quad core platform in November, promising increased performance and energy efficiency.

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 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 requirements from games, searches, Vista and video streaming sites, users need 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 on speed to energy efficiency. Otellini characterized this swing as the “biggest computer shift in over a decade.”

Quad core 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.

Freedman said this contradicts some industry experts who predict that 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.”

Advanced Micro Devices said Intel’s plan to enhance PCI Express technology to address performance requirements from compute-intensive applications won’t make a difference.

“It’s like having a Maserati out on the expressway at rush hour,” said John Fruehe, worldwide business development manager for AMD Opteron.

Intel’s senior vice-president and general manager of the digital enterprise group Pat Gelsinger said the proposal, codenamed “Geneseo,” describes enhancements that will enable faster connectivity between the processor and application accelerators.

Improvements to the technology will allow it to better address the performance requirements of certain applications that use visualization, math and physics and content processing usage models. These include weather modeling, data intensive financial apps and encryption/decryption of data.