The picture of the Nehalem processor is getting clearer. On Tuesday at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, Intel Senior Vice President Pat Gelsinger described a new "turbo mode" that pushes the 45-nanometer Nehalem into a higher gear without heat consequences.
The Nehalem series aims to increase energy efficiency and processing performance while also improving hyperthreading and memory bandwidth.
In Intel's "tick-tock" strategy, smaller processors and revamped manufacturing alternate years with new processor architectures, and Nehalem fits into the processor-architecture part of the road map.
'Power Gating' Technology
Gelsinger, in his keynote address, said a new "power gating" technology will be introduced with Nehalem. Although Intel chips can cut off power to an unused core, the core sometimes leaks power in sleep mode. The new technology has a transistor design that allows power to be more completely cut off when not needed.
The power gate includes on-chip sensors and a power-control unit. This means not only can power be turned off when a unit is idle, but it can also direct more power to active cores. Gelsinger told news media that this turbo mode offers greater capabilities, especially in environments where heat is a factor.
The new microarchitecture also features QuickPath Interconnect to join processors, chipsets and memory in a way that provides up to three times the memory bandwidth of earlier Intel microarchitectures.
Larrabee's 'Many Core' Architecture
These technologies, according to Gelsinger, help improve laptop battery life and can help data centers realize significant power savings.
As the number of cores in processors increases -- and Intel's upcoming Larrabee "many core" architecture could involve arrays of hundreds or even thousands -- power control becomes critical for energy costs, battery life, and heat dissipation.
The first Nehalem-based processors are expected to be manufactured in the fourth quarter. Last week, Intel said its first desktop processors based on the Nehalem microarchitecture will be called Intel Core i7.
Nehalem-EP will be the first Nehalem-based server products, to be followed by a series called Nehalem-EX for the expandable server market. New desktop processors, Havendale and Lynnfield, and mobile-targeted Auburndale and Clarksfield processors are expected to be released in the second half of 2009.