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Intel joins the herd with slimmer, four-core Itanium

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Intel's future version of Itanium code-named Tukwila has gone under the knife more times than Michael Jackson's nose. During its slideware career, the chip has changed names twice and been said to range anywhere from four to even 32-cores. Now, however, Intel seems to have settled on four-cores once and for all.

We've been expecting the four-core confirmation for more than a year after sources indicated that Intel decided to go with fewer, faster cores rather than multiple low-power cores with its upcoming Itanic designs. Such a move should provide Intel customers with better single thread performance and put the company's products somewhere between the speedy Power6 chip from IBM and Sun Microsystems' 16-core Rock chips.

With Tukwila, Intel will finally give in to the idea of adding an on-chip memory controller and a fresh serial interconnect code-named CSI, which stands for Common Systems Interconnect or Coherent Scalable Interconnect, depending on who you ask.

The good people at Real World Technologies turned up much of this information after catching a batch of Intel slides from a high performance computing conference in Asia.

Tukwila, due out in 2008, "features an on-die FB-DIMM memory controller, which will lower access latency," the site reports. "The FB-DIMM controller likely supports 4 channels of memory, possibly more. As a result of the lower memory latency, Tukwila requires less cache than its predecessor."

"Montecito featured 27MB of cache, for two processors, while Tukwila is reported to have 6MB of L3 cache per core, or 24MB for each MPU. Preliminary diagrams also indicate that there is on-die switch for traffic between the four cores and caches on each chip."

There's more specs and a Tukwila design available here.

Tukwila was actually first called "Tanglewood" and meant to arrive in 2007. The chip has long reflected the work of the former DEC Alpha engineering team that Intel purchased to help out with revamping Itanic's design. The Tukwila chip should finally let Intel catch-up to rivals on a number of design aspects such as the on-chip memory controller and the use of more cores to crunch through multiple software threads at one time.

The variations on IBM, Intel and Sun's architectures should make 2008 pretty interesting. We'll see which company made the right bet for their high-end products. ®

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