Intel squeezes 2 billion transistors onto new Itanium chip

Vendor is set to disclose details of upcoming Tukwila quad-core chip at ISSCC today

Intel Corp. is slated to divulge new information on Tukwila, its upcoming quad-core Itanium processor, at the International Solid State Circuits Conference today in San Francisco.

Intel is expected to give attendees at the super-techie conference a rundown on Tukwila specs, and on its upcoming low-power Silverthorne processor

The new 65-nanometer Tukwila Itanium processor, which is expected to be released at the end of this year, will run at up to 2 GHz, have dual-integrated memory controllers and use Intel's QuickPath interconnect instead of a front-side bus. The processor also will have 2 billion transistors on one chip, according to Rob Shiveley, a spokesman for Intel.

Itanium, which first hit the market in 2001, targets enterprise servers and high-performance computing machines.

"The more transistors on a chip, the more work you get out of that chip," said Dean Freeman, an analyst at Gartner Inc. "With one of these new chips, you should get better performance than you would with two chips out of the previous generation."

For some perspective, an earlier Itanium processor, Montecito, was built on 90nm technology and held 1.7 billion transistors. And Penryn, Intel's new 45nm chip for the desktop, which it released last November, has 820 million newly designed transistors.

Shiveley noted that Tukwila is expected to have double the performance of Montvale, another Itanium processor that was released late last year, while using only 25% more power. He added that the low power-consumption increase is based on new voltage frequency management technology.

"You double the performance of the previous processor for only 25% more power. That's pretty significant," said Freeman. "Before, with each new generation of processor, the power consumption would basically go up to match the performance. This is impressive. They've done some good engineering in there."

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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