Tick Tock: Intel's Nehalem chips looking at long rollout

Most of the Nehalem family are slated to be released over the course of next year.

Can't wait to get your hands on a system running Intel's upcoming Nehalem processors?

Well, you better settle in and put your feet up, because this is going to take a while.

At this week's Intel Developer Forum, the company gave out some more details about its upcoming chip family -- codenamed Nehalem. The first Nehalem chips, which will be quad-core server chips, are expected to ship this fall. After that, the rest of the Nehalem family -- desktop chips, dual-core, more quad-core and eight-core chips -- are slated to be released over the course of next year.

Jim McGregor, an analyst at In-Stat, said at IDF that Intel lightly touched on the fact that the Nehalem rollout will span four or five quarters.

"There's probably more complexity on the chip than they expected," said McGregor from the annual developers' forum, which is being held in San Francisco. "Generally, whenever you have an extended schedule, it usually means there's some challenges in the design or with the supporting chipsets. AMD learned that lesson with Barcelona. When you're trying to put four cores or more on a chip, you tend to run into some kind of trouble."

Intel has not disclosed any problems with Nehalem's design.

Company executives did show off the first 8-core Nehalem chip at the conference. And this week Intel said it's six-core Dunnington processor will ship next month. Moving beyond the quad-core processors that to date have been the high water mark in the semiconductor industry, is a major step. And it's a step that keeps Intel well ahead of rival Advanced Micro Devices.

AMD, which is slated to ship its upcoming 6-core Istanbul server processor in the second half of 2009, could use some breathing room in its one-upsmanship battle with Intel.

Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, said AMD will gladly take a long rollout from Intel if that means they won't have to deal with an 8-core chip coming out in the next several months. He added that while it offers a little breathing room, it's not much since AMD is still about a year behind Intel in multi-core offerings.

Another Nehalem feature drawing some attention is the built-in Turbo Boost. The technology basically is designed to shut down unused cores so the remaining cores can be used more efficiently. This energy-saving technology has been used in other processors, according to McGregor, but it's a good addition here.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
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