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Monday, February 07, 2005
Intel to detail dual-core Itanium at conference

Montecito, Intel's first dual-core chip, will contain nearly 2 billion transistors but will run cooler than its existing relatives.

A member of the Itanium family of server processors, Montecito will contain 1.7 billion transistors, making it Intel's first chip to crack the billion mark in transistors, and run at 2GHz, faster than existing Itaniums, according to Nimish Modi, vice president of the Digital Enterprise Group at Intel.

Montecito, however, will sport a thermal ceiling, or maximum power output, of 100 watts, lower than the 130-watt ceiling of existing Itaniums and about equal to some of Intel's hottest desktop chips.

Intel will publish a paper on Montecito, along with one on a silicon radio with multiple antennas, at the International Solid State Circuits Conference, or ISSCC, a five-day event in San Francisco that began Sunday. The Montecito chip is due out later this year.

Improved power efficiency comes from a variety of new technologies, Modi said, including demand-based switching, which slows down transistors when not in use, and Foxton, which boosts the speed of the processor during peak workloads so tasks can be completed faster.

Intel also narrowed the lines defining the channel, a region inside the transistor, to optimize performance at lower temperatures. Additionally, power is further consumed by not running the chip much faster than existing 1.6GHz Itaniums.

"The whole goal is how do we maximize delivered performance," Modi said.

Keeping power consumption down, particularly on multicore chips, is one of the dominant themes at the conference, one of the premier annual events for the semiconductor industry. Past conference highlights include the first papers on digital signal processors, or DSPs (Bell Labs, 1980), RISC chips (UC Berkeley; Stanford, 1984), 100MHz processors (Intel, 1991) and 1GHz processors (Digital; Intel, 2000).

Among other highlights, IBM, Toshiba and Sony will provide details Monday and Tuesday on the Cell processor that will go into the PlayStation 3.

Stream Processors, a start-up promoting energy-efficient image processors, will also publicly reveal some of its ideas, while a number of companies will discuss new concepts for cooling chips.

Nanotechnology will be another dominant issue. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., or TSMC, will describe a transistor that combines nanowires and multiple gates.

Daeje Chin, minister of information and communications in South Korea, will formally open the conference with a keynote speech on nanotechnology and Korea's plans to promote the IT industry.

Most of the sessions sail far above the head of the layperson, or even the computer hobbyist. On Tuesday, for instance, the University of California, Irvine, will present a paper titled "A 1.8V three stage 25GHz 3dB-BW differential non-uniform downsized differential amplifier," which will be followed by a presentation on a low-jitter spread spectrum clock generator from Silicon Image.


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