Processors Divide to Conquer

By John Blyler, Editorial Director


Intel’s latest dual-core embedded Intel® Atom™ processor and single-core, multiple micro-servers follow the trend of “more is better than less” in balancing low power and high performance trade-offs.

Multicore systems continue to migrate from the high-performance PC and server markets to the embedded space. Consider Intel’s recent announcement of the dual-core Intel Atom processor N570. It is intended to give netbook users a more responsive experience than its former single-core version while maintaining the same form factor and roughly the same battery life.

This is not the first embedded dual core Intel Atom processor designed for netbooks. The Intel Atom processor D510 received that honor almost a year ago, back in mid-2010 (see below, “Dual Core Embedded Processors Bring Benefits and Challenges”).

While the latest dual-core N570 version will improve netbook speed for simple applications like email and web-browsing, it still won’t offer laptop grade performance. Conversely, power consumption for the embedded dual-cores is less than most laptop chips, but still slightly higher than a single-core Intel Atom processor. Netbooks with the N570 version processor are available now.

Let’s move from the embedded space to the low-end server market. Intel has recently announced a new micro-server chip based on its embedded Intel Atom processor micro-architecture. These chips, targeted at data room infrastructure tasks, should be available by 2012. (see below, “Processor Giants Continue Up And Down Push Into Coveted Embedded Market”).

The premise for micro-servers is that many lower-powered servers may provide greater efficiency than fewer, more robust servers. The company’s troubled Itanium line of high grade servers comes to mind. (See below, “Processor Giants Continue Up And Down Push Into Coveted Embedded Market”)

These 64-bit, micro-server chips will span the gauntlet from 45 watt high performance devices to sub-10 watt families. Intel® Xeon® processors E3-1260L and E3-1220L are in production now.

The benefits of embedded dual-core processors and multiple single-core, low power servers are sufficient to suggest strong growth numbers in the future. What has yet to be addressed is whether the software development community is ready to embrace the new programming paradigm required by the many-to-one scenarios embraced by these hardware platforms.


John Blyler can be reached at: jblyler@extensionmedia.com