Date: September 18, 2007
Author(s): Rob Williams
Paul Otellini opened up the Fall IDF in San Francisco with a keynote focusing on all upcoming technologies including the 65nm to 45nm process, Penryn and Nehalem, power efficiencies, WiMAX, Havok benefits and more.
Intel’s Developer Forum turns 10 this year, and we are reminded many times as we walk throughout the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco. This particular IDF is special for a few different reasons. We are at a point in time when the hardware landscape is changing drastically and new technologies are constantly being improved. We learned much about the Penryn and Nahalem microarchitecture at IDF Beijing this past April, but things have progressed very well since then, as we are discovering through various keynotes.
One of the more exciting events was an interview with Intel Chairman Emeritus Gordon Moore, who was a co-founder of the company in 1968. Greg will be covering the event in better detail, but it was quite something to hear opinions from one of the biggest innovators in the industry.
Day one kicked off with a packed auditorium and an hour-long keynote by Paul Otellini, President and CEO of Intel. Prior to the keynote, we were shown a quick video showcasing IDF from 1997 to 2006, which of course was quite a trip down memory lane. Once Paul took the stage however, he touched on Intel’s innovations over the years, including processors and their architectures, connectivity, memory and power. Of course most know the current situation of Intel’s products and the state of connectivity/power, but the slide gave us a clear glance at how much we’ve progressed since the original 4004 microprocessor.
Not surprisingly, one of the main focuses for the keynote and the entire conference in general is the move from 65nm to 45nm. By now, most everyone knows that Penryn is much more than a die shrink, but he really stressed that their High-K Metal Gate transistors is one of the reasons they are ahead of the competition. MG transistors have been were stressed as not being a simple upgrade, but a revolutionary new technique, one that they would not disclose in great detail. At this time however, they’ve already made tweaks to the process, and Nahalem and beyond will reap the rewards from that.
45nm means a lot of things. Less power, higher performance and far greater flexibility. On the slide that you can see below, there are many examples that show 45nm as being beneficial in every market, from SoaC all the way up to an all-in-one solution, such as Larabee. You might note also the Octo Core processor listed. This wasn’t unexpected, but at this present time is being thought of as a server CPU only, for obvious reasons.
Paul also explained that Intel has made significant silicon improvements every two years since the 180nm processes in 1999. Moving from 180mm to 130mm and all the way down to 45nm is nothing short of impressive, especially while keeping on such a regular schedule. It was at this time that Paul displayed a 45nm Penryn wafer on stage, also stating that the official release date will be November 12, with production in full swing and shipments being prepared to head out to customers.
With Penryn so close to launch, a lot of attention was shifted towards Nehalem, the “Tock” of this product cycle. As we first found out this past March, Nahalem is a very modular architecture. While Penryn and other current Quad-Cores consist of two dies side by side, Nahalem will be built from the ground up and essentially become a native Quad-Core.
At this point, Paul invited Glenn Hinton, Chief Nahalem Architect to explain some of the benefits of 45nm. Not surprisingly, lower power and better performance were quickly touched on, but they settled on a slide that explained that processor yields are constantly getting better, as seen in the logarithmic graph seen below. This not only saves money but can increase throughput.
The next slide focused on Intel’s 45nm fabs. Currently, the only ones to currently be stamping out 45nm Penryns is D1D Oregon and Fab 32 in Arizona. Fab 28 in Israel is completing construction and will begin production in the first half of ’08, while Fab 11X New Mexico has a further way from completed construction and will begin production sometime in the second half of ’08.
Although numerous points made throughout the keynote were note-worthy, one that caught my attention was Paul’s thoughts on desktop/notebook crossover. It’s his believe that in 2009, over 50% of computers purchased will be notebooks. These conclusions are all based on the graph below.
The growth since 2000 has grown gradually each year and will continue to do so.
WiMAX is a rather new technology, but it’s been deployed all over the world and is currently going through it’s testing stage. Although Paul didn’t delve into the technology a great deal, the premise is simple. WiMAX would be a solution to those who need to connect to wireless access points when not near to a hotspot, or at home. Similar in idea to a cellular tower, if these WiMAX stations have wide adoption, you should essentially be able to connect to the internet regardless of where you are.
One example brought up was of a hiker who planned on doing a BASE jump. He had a USB connected webcam to his helmet and WiMAX capabilities on his handheld device. While they didn’t show any jump live, the idea is that he could record his entire jump while wirelessly streaming the data to his laptop at the bottom of the mountain. Of course there are other uses as well… such as e-mail and the internet. The capabilities are great, and this seems like a technology that would be beneficial to many, especially our Senior Editor, Greg King, who lives in the sticks and is trapped within the confines of dial-up.
In a change of pace, Paul showcased some extreme overclocks being accomplished on a 45nm Yorkfield overclocked to 5.0GHz+. A few world records were broken while using a phase change cooling setup, which was truly as exciting as doing laundry. However, I do admit that an 8 second Super Pi 1 Million is an impressive feat.
Intel’s processors are not their only products to reap the rewards of smaller processes. As you can see from the slide below, between 2006 and this year, Intel moved from a 130nm process to 90nm, with 65nm appearing next year. Following that will be 45nm in 2009 which will match up with Nahalem.
In 2010, both the processor and GPU will be produced on a 32nm process, effectively bumping performance up by 10x when compared to what was offered just last year.
Intel shocked the industry last Saturday when they announced the acquisition of Havok, a leader in physics middleware for PC and console gaming. Unlike AGEIA’s PhysX, Havok relies on the CPU entirely, which is a bonus for most gamers since an additional PCI physics is not required.
The benefits of such an acquisition are easy to spot. By acquiring Havok, they have access to the physics leader, which could reap rewards for upcoming technologies, such as the modular Nahalem architecture or Larabee platform. While AGEIA’s PhysX requires a PCI card for all calculation, Havok relies on your systems available cores. This is where Quad-Cores would really shine, and to prove that, Paul invited Josh Resnick, President and Co-Founder of Pandemic studios, to show off Mercenaries 2: World in Flames and what physics can accomplish in gameplay.
If you are not familiar with Mercenaries, it’s a game that allows intense destruction of the environments and objects around the world. It’s obvious how physics could play a huge role in the overall excitement of a scene. Throughout the playthrough, trucks were blown up, as well as buildings. Throughout all of this though, nothing really blew me away. Pun intended. As impressive as everything looked, it didn’t really show off the capabilities of physics, or at least they were not that obviously seen. Maybe with actual playtime of the game, it would be more obvious, but many of the explosions could have well been pre-rendered and I would not have noticed the difference.
That said, I’m sure Quad-Cores will show obvious benefits with physics in the future. More in-depth demos are sure to be on their way. Intel did acquire Havok just within the past week, afterall.
At IDF 2005, Paul made public a goal of lowering idle power consumption by 10x within five years. Today, he boasted the fact that they will hit that goal a full two years early. Impressive. But made more impressive was the fact that he made a new goal to increase efficiency by another 10x by 2010. This would effect all product-types from handtops to servers.
Santa Rosa’s successor was touched on briefly as well. Montevina will be based on the Penryn architecture and when released, notebooks should include capabilities for both high-definition video as well as WiMAX. The system was so early in production, that the “notebook” is what you see below. Quite a few hearty laughs filled the auditorium.
Towards the end of the keynote, Andrew Fanara, Product Specifications Developer Team member of Energy Star was invited to the stage to give thoughts on the progress of Intel’s products. Since energy efficiency is a huge topic lately for various reasons, including global warming, the push is on the hardware vendors to create exceptional products that are very energy efficient. Energy Star released their 4.0 spec in July which addresses many of these new concerns, and upcoming Intel products have already passed these tests.
As anticipated, Paul’s keynote was an exciting look at what’s to come. With so many note-worthy products right around the corner, it’s an exciting time to say the least.
During the press Q&A session following the keynote, Paul was prompted with the question of when Intel would come to market with Triple-Core processors, to which he replied with something to the effect of, “We’d rather release processors with working cores.”
What better way to end an article?
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