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Intel stuffs Nehalem chips with joy

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IDF Intel has tick-tocked itself into a frenzy about its upcoming line of multi-core fancies now being discussed under the "Nehalem" code-name.

Server chief Pat Gelsinger took the stage this week at IDF to speak of Nehalem's wonders, telling the audience that the re-architected chip line will change their businesses and perhaps their lives. Gelsinger's talk was overall light on new product but high on Gelsinger's usual brand of enthusiasm.

Of note was Gelsinger's revelation of the first eight-core Nehalem-EX silicon. The EX stands for expandable server market apparently and indicates that the chips will slot in large systems. Intel will sell these chips with 2, 4 or 8 cores and do a couple software threads per core.

The desktop - Core i7 - and standard server Nehalem chips will start arriving in the fourth quarter. Then the the EX server chips and additional desktop desktop (“Havendale” and “Lynnfield”) and mobile (“Auburndale” and “Clarksfield”) chips will appear in the second half of 2009.

In the first "part" of 2009, Intel will also dish out Tukwila - the beastliest version of Itanium yet at 2bn transistors.

"Itanium processor development is on track, and (the chip) is doing well in the industry," Gelsinger said, apparently forgetting that Tukwila was once meant to ship in 2007. But who's keeping track?

Intel's wondrous new chips will all come with unprecedented amounts of "wow" that stretches beyond their to performance and sultry power management.

For example, Intel's pumping something called Turbo Mode, which is a new form of power management. In the past, Intel could fiddle with switching power but not leakage power. Now it's taking care of the whole enchilada via an integrated microcontroller.

And then there's VT-d, which is a some new virtualization technology that does real damage to hypervisors. Apparently, you can get about 2x the performance out of VMware thanks to VT-d, which will be in the Nehalem chips. ®

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