New Microarchitecture Signals Change Ahead

By Cheryl Ajluni

Change is definitely in the air. It stems from something much more than just the arrival of a new season. The seeds of change were first planted earlier this year when Intel Corporation announced a new processor architecture known as the Intel® Core™ microarchitecture. To many in the industry, this announcement marked Intel’s answer to the high-performance, reduced power-consumption features of AMD’s own microprocessors. It also hinted at the new energy-efficient, high-performing, stylish Intel-based computers and servers still to come. Expected to ship in the third quarter of 2006, others are left wondering if this vision will really play out the way Intel envisions.

Developed in Haifa, Israel, Intel’s 64-bit microarchitecture features a dual-core design with linked L1 cache and shared L2 cache. Engineered for maximum performance per watt and improved scalability, it builds on the power–saving philosophy of the Mobile Intel® Pentium® M processor microarchitecture. Additionally, it incorporates a host of new innovative capabilities, as well as existing Intel® Pentium® 4 processor technologies like wide data pathways and streaming instructions. Some of the new advanced capabilities incorporated in the Intel Core microarchitecture include:

  • Wide Dynamic Execution – This capability enables delivery of more instructions per clock cycle; resulting in improved execution time and energy efficiency. Every execution core is 33% wider than previous generations which means that each core can fetch, dispatch, execute and retire up to four full instructions simultaneously using an efficient 14-stage pipeline.
  • Intelligent Power – This capability reduces power consumption and design requirements by intelligently powering on individual logic subsystems only when required.
  • Advanced Smart Cache – This multi-core optimized cache reduces latency to frequently used data. By allowing one core to utilize the entire cache when the other core is idle, memory traffic is minimized and performance increased
  • Smart Memory Access – This capability improves system performance by optimizing the use of the available data bandwidth from the memory subsystem and hiding the latency of memory accesses. It includes a “memory disambiguation” feature which increases the efficiency of out-of-order processing by providing the execution cores with built-in intelligence. This intelligence speculatively loads data for instructions that are about to execute before all previous store instructions are executed.
  • Advanced Digital Media Boost – This feature allows many 128-bit Streaming SIMD Extension (SSE, SSE2 and SSE3) instructions to execute within only one cycle; effectively doubling their execution speed.
With its advanced functionality, Intel Core microarchitecture will serve as the foundation for Intel’s multi–core processors scheduled to start shipping in the third quarter. These processors, built on the company’s advanced 65-nm process technology, will include: Merom, an eighth-generation, dual-core 2 to 4-MB L2 cache chip for mobile computing; Conroe, an eighth-generation, dual-core 4-MB L2 cache chip for desktop systems; and Woodcrest, an eighth-generation, dual-core 4-MB L2 cache chip for servers and workstations. Intel Core microarchitecture will also serve as the cornerstone for future dual–core and quad–core processors expected to ship in 2007.

With its higher performance and low power, Intel is banking on the fact that this new microarchitecture will enable a slew of new sleek solutions and form factors in the desktop and mobile computing markets, as well as for servers.

Mobile users will reap the benefits of Intel Core microarchitecture as well as it leads the way to greater computing performance combined with exceptional battery life in a variety of small form factor, world-class computing devices. In other words, what Intel really anticipates that it will do is to enhance the user’s computing experience in all environments – at home, in the workplace and on the go.

Cheryl Ajluni is the owner of Custom Media Solutions, specializing in technology-based content for publications and tradeshows. She has over 10 years experience covering the high-tech industry for such publications as Electronic Design and Embedded Systems Development. Ajluni served as Editor-in-Chief of Wireless Systems Design.