Intel Previews Nehalem-EX Xeon Processor

Intel Corporation of Santa Clara, California has introduced a prototype of a new Xeon processor with codenamed Nehalem-EX. The processor supports up to eight cores and sixteen threads inside a single chip and includes up to sixteen memory slots per processor socket and up to four high speed QuickPath Interconnect data links allowing a 25.6 gigabytes per second throughput.
Nehalem-EX (Credit: Intel)
Nehalem-EX (Credit: Intel)

Nehalem-EX is scheduled for production by the end of 2009 and includes reliability, availability, and serviceability (RAS) features normally reserved for Intel’s Itanium processor family including the company’s Machine Check Architecture recovery which detects memory and I/O errors and works with the operating system to correct them. This allows machines using Nehalem-EX to recover from what would be fatal errors in other architectures.

The Nehalem-EX processor also incorporates Intel’s 45nm high-k metal gate technology providing gates 45 nanometers in length and nearly doubling the transistor capacity. The system also improves transistor switching speeds by 20 percent and reduces transistor gate leakage tenfold. Such leakage has become a major problem as chip sizes continue to shrink. It is due to this technology that each Nehalem-EX processor can contain approximately 2.3 billion transistors.

The processor also takes advantage of Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology, a system that provides thread-level parallel processing to maximize processor efficiency and allow multiple large applications to run simultaneously without negatively impacting reliability or system responsiveness. Additionally, the system can turn off unused cores until they’re needed, conserving power.

Parallel threading is particularly powerful in conjunction with Intel’s Turbo Boost technology which allows the system to run faster than the base operating frequency as long as it doesn’t exceed power and temperature thresholds. A particularly powerful application can draw unused power from a temporarily disabled core, thus greatly increasing its effectiveness. The frequency limit is determined by a combination of the number of cores in use, the estimated current draw, the estimated power draw, and the processor temperature. Each of these factors is checked regularly and frequency is adjusted on an ongoing basis in order to keep the Nehalem-EX processor operating within its specified limits.

Intel is positioning the Nehalem-EX processor as a platform for high end enterprise applications and pushing it rather strongly as a replacement for RISC-based processors.

TFOT has previously reported on other new and upcoming processors including AMD’s six core Istanbul processor that also uses 45nm gates, plans for a future AMD 12 core processor, and Intel’s plans for using silicon in its development of an optical chip. TFOT has also reported on a study by researchers at Sandia National Laboratory showing that system performance decreases as the number of processor cores on a single chip increases.

Read more about the Nehalem-EX processor in this Intel press release.

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