SAN JOSE, Calif. Hoping to solve a major problem in systems design, Intel Corp. on Monday (Feb. 7) disclosed more details about its dynamic low-power technology for high-end microprocessors.
The low-power technology, dubbed Foxton, is initially targeted for Intel's dual-core, 64-bit Itanium processor line, but it will be eventually incorporated within its 32- and 64-bit Xeon chips.
Foxton is a hardware-based technology that claims to dynamically and automatically adjust the voltage and frequency settings for a microprocessor while also boosting overall system performance by up to 10 percent. Within Foxton, Intel has also incorporated a demand-based switching (DBS) technology, which is said to dynamically reduce processor power consumption based on demand and workload.
According to Intel (Santa Clara, Calif.), Foxton is said to automatically adjust the voltage in a processor in 12.5-miliwatt increments at 32 different settings. It can also modulate the frequency in a processor at 64 different increments.
Initially, the company said it will incorporate the Foxton technology within Montecito, a previously-announced, dual-core processor within the company's 64-bit Itanium family.
Originally announced back in 2004 (see Sept. 2, 2004 story), Montecito is the company's first billion-transistor device. The 90-nm, 100-Watt processor incorporates 1.72-billion transistors, multi-threading and other features for high-end servers. Production is slated for the fourth quarter of 2005, with volumes due in 2006.
Intel originally dropped hints about Foxton last year, when it outlined its new 64-bit processor roadmap. At the time, it provided little or no details about the technology (see Feb. 18, 2004 story).
Meanwhile, over time, the company plans to incorporate its Foxton technology in other processor lines, said Nimish Modi, vice president of Intel's Digital Enterprise Group and general manager of its Enterprise Microprocessor Division. "It is our plan to incorporate Foxton into the Xeon," Modi said during a conference call.
Intel's Xeon processors are 32-bit, x86-based chips for servers. The company has also rolled out a Xeon with 64-bit extensions, which may steal the thunder from its Itanium processor line (see Feb. 23, 2004 story). Xeon currently incorporates DBS, but not the Foxton technology.
The company is moving its low-power technology across its product lines for good reason. "The biggest challenge continues to be power both delivery and dissipation," said Shekhar Borkar, an Intel Fellow and co-director of Intel's Microprocessor Technology Laboratory.
For some time, Intel has worried about power dissipation in processor designs. Last year, the company pulled the plug on a planned 4.0-GHz speed grade of its Pentium 4 processor line, due in part to power issues. It also scrapped the planned Tejas processor because it dissipated too much power and ran too hot.
Rather than painting the revelations as glitches, Intel positioned the move as a way to focus the company's processor roadmap on factors other than clock speed. In an effort to solve the power issues, Intel said multicore processors would became a big part of its future plans (see Oct. 14, 2004 story).