No sooner than two weeks have passed since Intel's announcement of Silverthorne and Diamondville processors that help expand Intel's x86 architecture to the ultra mobility and ultra portable devices, on 18th Match Intel unveiled next generation details of the other-end of the scale, namely the high performance computing and Expandable (EX) platform segment. In this forward looking article, we detail what you can expect of Intel's high-end multi-processor (MP) platform update, microarchitecture details of the eagerly awaited next generation processor core - the Nehalem and even some information regarding its platforms and processors beyond 2009 with Sandy Bridge and Larrabee. So sit tight as we navigate you through the sea of information.
You've heard of dual-core, quad-core and even tri-core processors, but the rumor of a 6-core processor from Intel has been in the wild for sometime, especially since last month's leak of Intel's roadmap presentation to Sun. Today, the rumor has become a reality as Intel announces the Dunnington processor for their Caneland multi-processor platform (Intel 7300 chipset) supporting up to four physical CPUs for large scale server computing. Currently, the Caneland platform takes in "Tigerton" processors (Xeon 7300 series), which are very similar to Clovertown processors (Xeon 5300 series) with the only difference that they are qualified to operate on the Caneland platform (read more about the Caneland platform and Tigerton processors here). For those who aren't familiar, the Clovertown processors are 65nm quad-core processor parts which are akin to the Kentsfield on the desktop lineup.
While the 45nm processor refresh has taken place on the mobile, desktop and workstation space, the high-end server computing space hasn't quite caught up yet. Dunnington is essentially a Caneland platform 'refresh' of sort as it will be manufactured on Intel's 45nm Hi-K process technology which is the basis of all the other 45nm parts produced by Intel to-date. With Dunnington, Intel would have completed introducing their 45nm processor parts in all of their CPU segments. Unlike the traditional die shrink with the expected Penryn-class enhancements, Dunnington is actually a lot more superior to their Tigerton processors. 6 processing cores, with each pair sharing a 3MB L2 cache, 16MB of shared L3 cache among all cores and is comprised of 1.9 billion transistors.\
With the Caneland and the four Xeon 7300 processors, the platform can support up to a total of 16 processing cores. The same platform upgraded with four Dunnington processors will yield a grand total of 24 processing cores - which are quite impressively spec'd too. It is pin compatible to the Tigerton and as such, it's a direct drop-in upgrade to the Caneland platform. Unlike other Xeon counterparts where a somewhat similar desktop uni-processor option is available, Dunnington will be solely relegated to the MP space. Intel explained that the product proposition for high-end home users just isn't there yet and it would cost too much effort to repackage it for the desktop segment as its physical packaging and electrical configuration differs. In any case, by the time such an offering is made, it would be late and expensive, which by then Nehalem would be out soon (and that's our next major topic of focus in this article). As for expected availability of Dunnington processors, it is estimated to be out in the second half of 2008.
Over on the extreme high-performance computing (HPC) segment, Intel also reiterated their upcoming Itanium update. Codenamed Tukwila and made up of 2-billion transistors, it is Intel's most complex CPU yet, doubling the performance of its predecessor at the very least. Also expected for release in late second half of this year or early 2009, you can read more about it in our previous processor/platform update .