Intel preparing six-core chips for desktops, servers

The new chips will contain 1.17 billion transistors and 12MB of cache

Intel is preparing six-core chips for high-end desktops and servers for release in the first half of this year, the company said Wednesday.

The six-core chips will be based on the company's latest Westmere architecture and deliver faster performance and more power savings compared to earlier quad-core chips, Intel said on a conference call. The chips will contain 1.17 billion transistors and include 12MB of cache, a company spokesman said.

The new chips are made using the 32-nanometer process, which is also used to make the company's latest Core processors introduced in January. The base architecture of both the chips are the same, however, the six-core chips will not include integrated graphics capabilities. Users will need to buy a discrete graphics card to work with the chips.

Intel officials declined to provide further details such as clock speed.

Intel is targeting desktop six-core processors, code-named Gulftown, at enthusiasts like gamers. The processor will fit into the same socket as the older quad-core Core i7 chips targeted at enthusiasts, a company spokesman said. The Gulftown processor will come under the Core i7 brand name and be able to run 12 threads at the same time to boost application performance.

Intel already offers a six-core Xeon processor code-named Dunnington that was announced in 2008. The new six-core Westmere-EP chip will also be offered under the Xeon brand name, but it includes speed and security enhancements. Intel CEO Paul Otellini said in late January that Intel would release Xeon chips made using the 32-nm within three months.

For servers, Westmere also adds a new instruction set for faster data encryption and decryption called Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). That could help secure data residing in servers or virtualized environments.

In addition, the six-core processors include new power management technologies for the chips to be power efficient. For example, the chips will be capable of shutting down idle cores to save power.

The company is also preparing an eight-core chip which is code-named Nehalem-EX, which is Intel's fastest processor to date, Otellini said. The chip is also due for release in the first half of this year.

AMD also plans to come out with a six-core chip for high-end desktops code-named Thuban, though it hasn't officially announced the shipping date for the chip.

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