Intel aims for RISC market with next generation of Xeons

Intel has been giving details of its next generation Xeon multicore processing platform codenamed Nehalem EX.
The new processor range will extend the number of cores per chip to eight and Intel is promising a big boost in performance over existing Xeon 7400 processors. The new platform will double the existing memory capacity, with 16 memory slots possible per processor socket, and have four high-bandwidth QuickPath links of the type currently seen in other Xeon processors.

“With around 2.3bn transistors the new chip is one of the most complex pieces of technology built by humans,” said Boyd Davis, general manager of marketing for Intel’s server platforms.

“We expect this to be a dramatic leap forward. This really goes after markets served by RISC processors. It’s going to have a significant impact on the whole server market.”

The new line will extend from dual core up to eight cores per processor. It will go into production later this year with the first models available in early 2010.

Intel is already saying it has wide support from OEMs. Over 15 server designs have already been registered between eight OEMs and IBM has been showing off a server it has already built using the chips.

“We’re the first to demonstrate the EX in production,” said Alex Vost, vice president of IBM’s System X and blade business.

The prototype X5 system uses eight, eight-core processors to give a total of 64 cores running 128 software threads.

Davis said that Intel was confident the new high end chips would not be a threat to Itanium, which will have a new processor out next year as well, but was aimed at taking more business away from RISC systems.

“Nehalem EX’s core platform attributes make it very capable of further disruption to parts of a declining RISC market,” said Vernon Turner, an analyst from IDC, in a recent report.

The Xeon 5500, formerly the Nehalem ES, is selling well the company said. By August 2009 Intel is forecasting it will make up over 50 per cent of its dual core shipments.

A video interview with on the new processor lie can be found here.

BY Iain Thomson in San Francisco

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