Via details features of next-generation processor core

Via Technologies provided a glimpse on Tuesday of features that will be offered with the company's upcoming next-generation processor core, called Esther.

The first Esther-based processors from Via are expected to be available during the second half of the year. Optimized for security and e-commerce applications, the chips will be manufactured at IBM's 300-millimeter wafer fabrication plant in New York, using a 90-nanometer process.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) manufactures processors based on Via's Nehemiah core using a 130-nanometer process. While IBM will produce some processors for Via, the company will continue to use TSMC to manufacture other chips.

The 90-nanometer process will allow Esther-based processors to consume 3.5 watts of power at a clock speed of 1GHz, Via said in a statement. In January, Via said the more advanced process would allow it to produce chips running at 2GHz that consume the same amount of power as the company's current processors.

Nehemiah-based processors consume a maximum of around 18 watts at a clock speed of 1.2GHz, according to the company's Web site. In certain configurations, the chips consume much less power and do not require cooling fans.

In addition to consuming less power at the same clock speeds as Nehemiah-based chips, the Esther-based processors will include support for a faster 800MHz front-side bus, which links the processor to the PC chipset, and a larger Level 2 cache.

Esther also extends the Via PadLock Hardware Security Suite offered by the Nehemiah core. Esther will offer execution (NX) protection, which prevents malicious code from a worm or virus propagating through a PC's memory, Via said. NX protection will be supported by Microsoft's Windows XP Service Pack 2, it said.

The new processor core will also support Montgomery Multiplier support for RSA encryption and Secure Hash (SHA-1 and SHA-256) algorithms, the company said. Montgomery Multiplier is an operation that speeds up RSA encryption. Secure Hash algorithms are used in cryptography for digital signatures used to verify the authenticity of an e-mail message.

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Sumner Lemon

IDG News Service
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