Hyper-threading, McKinley, Madison, oh my!

The first systems using Intel Corp.'s newly-announced hyper-threading technology will be Xeon-based and will appear next year, officials said Tuesday during a press briefing.

"We've seen performance gains as readily as 20 to 30 percent improvement," said Abhi Talwalkar, vice president and assistant general manager of Intel's Enterprise Platforms Group. In addition, Intel is developing tools to take advantage of the technology, he said.

Paul Otellini, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group, unveiled the hyper-threading technology this morning during his keynote at the company's Intel Developer Forum. Hyper-threading, also known as SMT (Simultaneous Multi-Threading), is a technology which lets a single processor act as two processors, ideally increasing performance. Regarding Intel's Itanium family of 64-bit processors, the next processor in the family, code-named McKinley, is expected next year. "It's going through verification and validation in the labs right now," Talwalkar said. "And we will see significant performance gains as McKinley comes forward on platforms."

McKinley will boast several advances over Itanium, including an increased bus speed from 133MHz on the current processor to 200MHz on McKinley. The bus frequency is the speed of data passing between the processor and the system's memory. Code compiled for Itanium will run 150 percent to 200 percent faster on McKinley, Talwalkar said. That difference will be even greater if applications are recompiled to run on McKinley. And of course, McKinley will boast an increase in clock speed. While the fastest Itanium is currently 800MHz, McKinley will have a 1GHz top speed.

After McKinley will come Madison, due in 2003, Talwalkar said. "Madison is taking McKinley and moving it to 0.13 (micron), enabling us to have a larger on-die (memory) cache. While Itanium has a 4M-byte cache, Madison is expected to have up to 6M bytes of on-die cache, Talwalkar said.

Intel also expects another processor, code-named Deerfield, to be available from 2003. Deerfield will be targeted at the 1u (1.75-inch) and 2u server market, he said.

In other news, the company is also on track to begin shipping its 2GHz Xeon processor for workstations at the end of this quarter, Talkwalkar said.

The Intel Developers Forum, in San Jose, California, runs through Thursday. More information can be found on the Web at http://www.intel.com/idf/.

Intel, based in Santa Clara, California, can be reached at +1-408-987-8080 or at http://www.intel.com/.

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Douglas F. Gray

PC World
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