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Intel's Whitefield goes Banias in 2006

Mobile chip for low-power servers

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Exclusive The Register has learned more details about Intel's future Xeon processor code-named "Whitefield", the company's first all-Indian design, that we first revealed last week.

Whitefield is a low-power multicore Xeon processer that places four mobile Banias cores around a shared Level 2 cache. The chip will arrive sooner than we expected last week; our sources say 2006. This chimes with predictions made by Intel India's President Ketan Sampat, who said customers could expect a new Xeon out of India by 2005 or 2006 on a 65 nanometer process.

It should be noted, that Whitefield's design differs from what you would expect with Intel's Tukwila version of Itanium. Tukwila will place numerous cores on a single die instead of connecting cores via shared memory.

The design, in theory, is similar to what IBM did with Power4. In that case, IBM combined two dual-core processors with the help of its multichip module. Intel will be using single core chips but similar module packaging. Basically, this means that Intel will be shipping the dual-core Tulsa chip and Whitefield at about the same time. This gives customers a choice between a faster but more power hungry chip and a slower chip aimed at lower-end tasks such as Web serving.

Intel's secrecy behind Whitefield is not surprising given that the company may appear to be lagging rivals with the design. Sun's Niagara chip, also due in 2006, combines up to 8 low-power cores on a single chip. Both Whitefield and Niagara appear aimed at reducing the time it takes a processor to communicate with memory. This is an ideal strategy for software such as Web and application servers that make lots of requests but don't require terribly high single thread performance.

It could be argued that Transmeta and RLX helped pave the way for such products with their success in the low-power blade server market. ®

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