SAN JOSE, Calif. Mark down Sept. 7 as the date Intel Corp. unofficially switches from frequency to parallelism as its main microprocessor philosophy. That's when President Paul Otellini will publicly demonstrate Intel's first dual-core processor as part of a keynote at the Intel Developer Forum (Sept 7-9).
Intel will host a smorgasbord of announcements during IDF covering areas including WiMax, ultrawideband and PC management technology for the digital office. But the most significant of these is likely to be the company's first multicore microprocessor, a server chip Intel declined to name.
Past IDF events have been known for their signature demos of super-cooled, ultra-cranked CPUs aimed at wowing the audience with a new frequency ceiling. Those days are over given the decline of performance-hungry applications and the rise of mobile computing.
"Megahertz was how we increased performance in the beginning, but we've been saying for a couple years now that that will run into some fundamental problems," said Frank Spindler, a vice president of Intel's corporate technology group who oversees IDF. "If you keep scaling frequency, you begin to see diminishing returns in processor performance while you see increasing issues in power consumption." Spindler added.
In his keynote, Otellini will describe some of the applications likely to get the most benefit from multicore CPUs, and he will lay out a road map for when such chips will begin to emerge in servers, PCs and other products.
Intel has said it will ship Montecito, a dual-core Itanium chip in mid-2005, making it the lead candidate for Otellini's demo. The company has also discussed plans for a dual-core X86 Xeon, but said it may not ship that part, called Tulsa, until 2006.
In some ways, Intel is playing catch-up with Advanced Micro Devices and Sun Microsystems.
AMD announced Tuesday (Aug. 31) it demonstrated a 90-nm, dual-core X86 processor running on a Hewlett-Packard ProLiant DL585 server. AMD plans to introduce a full dual-core processor line-up for the one- to eight-socket server and workstation market in mid-2005 based on the existing 940-pin socket. Dual-core processors for the client market are expected to follow in the second half of 2005.
Sun detailed its Niagara part at Hot Chips earlier this month. It uses eight simplified UltraSparc I cores each running four threads. Sun has taped out the chip that should ship in systems in early 2006. Intel has been shipping single-core, dual-threaded Pentium and Xeon X86 chips for some time.
"If Intel shows up at IDF showing a dual-core Xeon it means they have closed the gap," said Nathan Brookwood, market watcher with Insight64 (Saratoga, Calif.).
Also at IDF, Intel will disclose more details on its plans for WiMax, a broadband wireless technology aimed at last-mile network access. Previously Intel has said it would make WiMax part of its Centrino notebook platform by 2006.
The company also expects to provide news on its efforts to back the embattled OFDM-based version of ultrawideband for broadband wireless. Intel calls the technology Wireless USB and said it geared for two-meter clusters of home entertainment gear.
Separately, Otellini will role out a new Intel vision of the digital office that will include work on the products and standards such as a new management technology for tracking activity on business PCs. Intel will also show new techniques for increasing battery life in mobile systems and storage capabilities for handheld devices such as PDAs.
Intel chief technology officer Pat Gelsinger will discuss concepts for building a "smarter, safer faster Internet," according to an Intel IDF preview. The work spins out of the PlanetLab program at Intel Labs to connect a variety of R&D centers around the globe.
"They have essentially formed a test bed they are using to try to layer higher level elements and services on top of the Internet," said Spindler.
Intel hopes to attract as many as 5,500 people to the San Francisco event, its largest audience ever.