iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Intel Developer Forum 2007, Beijing

From PCIe to Geneseo, the Future of Mobile PC,
an 80-Core Processor Breaks Performance Records


We proceed with our account of Intel Developer Forum that has taken place in Beijing on April 17-18.

Our first article described the so-called Day 0, which was devoted to promising projects of the corporation. But Day 0 was not limited only to those topics we already mentioned. Day 0 covered another two interesting topics — the new generation of the Geneseo extension bus, which is intended to replace PCI Express, as well as a key report of Mooly Eden, vice president of Intel (creator of Pentium M processors) on mobile processors and platforms presented to analysts and reporters in an entertaining form - there was no time for this report in the tight schedule for the main two days of IDF Beijing. Ok, let's be consistent.


Geneseo — evolution of PCI Express

Project Geneseo has been reviewed by Ajay Bhatt, Intel Fellow. Geneseo is a future technology, which had been presented last year in autumn by Pat Gelsinger at IDF in San Francisco. The fact is that constantly growing requirements of computing tasks, such as computing physics in games, liquid simulation, OCR, voice and face recognition, stochastic optimization, operations with large matrices, and so on, require not only fast processors and memory buses, but also fast extension buses. Computational power of CPUs and GPUs rapidly grows owing to multiple cores and pipelines. Intel even demonstrated its 80-core "Bangalore" processor on the first day of IDF Beijing. Forum visitors were impressed by its 1.5-2 TFLOPS performance (read below). But nothing cardinal has changed in the field of extension buses since the successful launch of PCI Express. That is future super powerful multi-processors may get idle because of insufficient bandwidth of peripheral buses.

It must not come to that. That's why IBM and Intel have come out with the acceleration initiative.

Optimization of devices in order to enhance performance, functionality, and power efficiency of computing systems. In particular, acceleration of interconnections and symmetric multiprocessing requires changing the current vertical architecture of connections. This approach currently has more questions than answers given by Intel representatives. But this acceleration initiative means, for example, the next generation of interconnect buses, improved PCI Express - they should blend in well with this new architecture. PCI Express has been chosen because most accelerators can be efficiently supported by this bus.

The new strategy is based on the extension of PCI Express architecture (Geneseo + PCI Express).

What problems exist in the field of Accelerator Attach? Software overheads must be reduced for command and data transfers, as well as status and synchronization. The second problem is to reinforce and simplify OS support. Virtualization is one of the key issues here. Engineers have to improve hardware overhead, reduce latency, increase bandwidth for large packets. High-priority extension devices for the new buses are shown on this slide. The key requirements here are a scalable architecture, support for multiple market segments, OS, and applications. Compatibility with the PCI architecture and infrastructure, cost-efficiency (low migration costs), stable, scalable, and extensible architecture.

In terms of architectural evolution (promotion of a solution), we move from 5 GT/s this year to extended functionality. The other peculiarities are shown on the next slide.

A faster physical interface must be created first — looking for ways to double PCIe bandwidth. When it's done, it will be time for Power Management. Then it will be the turn of bandwidth, latency, and efficiency for small packets. And so forth by the slide. The programming model (drivers) of Geneseo is published on the slide. There must be an important improvement in the field of drivers.

Here is the development model of this interface starting from the original idea of Intel and IBM.

The first revisions of specifications are planned to appear by the end of this year, and the interface will appear by 2010. This interface is intended to replace many existing solutions. But the new solution should not be rushed —the market should get ready for the upgrade to avoid "unfledged" solutions. The upgrade process from various interfaces is shown on the slide.

The next generation of expansion card may dissipate 300 Watt and more. So Geneseo must be designed for more powerful solutions, and engineers are trying to raise power limits of new-gen cards above 150 Watt. They say that the old PCIe cards can be used with Geneseo.


Future of Mobile Technologies

This topic was covered by Mooly Eden, Vice President of Intel Mobility Platforms Group.

Half of PC users will have notebooks by 2010.

The number of notebooks sold each year will be doubled for the future five years. It's about 18% a year (35% in 2005, 28% in 2006). It will be a multimillion figure in China as well, the largest share falls into SMB and Home segments.

Here are the tendencies of M05 development:

  • a notebook with wireless features for home and near it
  • On-the-go wireless entertainments
  • Games (usually on desktops, now on notebooks as well!)
  • VoIP. General market — 1.3 billion dollars in 2009. (Skype is used by 7 million people).

With the appearance of wireless phones, the number of phones in the world grows exponentially. Have a look at the picture and you will understand what a revolution a mobile handset has made.

What's important, a mobile handset offers personalization: individual colors, styles, settings, contacts, etc. A similar situation is expected in the field of notebooks — common desktops will be replaced with personalized notebooks. Thus, notebooks will come in individual colors of the case, to say nothing of settings and OS.



We demonstrated the first notebook with HD-DVD a year ago.

Now we have another powerful gaming notebook — Alienware Area 51 m9750. It uses SLI and a Core 2 Duo processor, so 2142 Battlefield runs very well here.

We'll have notebooks based on Core 2 Duo processors with the unlocked multiplier in the second half of this year, so they will be even more efficient in games. In future there will appear notebooks with quad-core processors!

It's not an overstatement to say that 2007 is the year when games will settle in notebooks.

Intel is going to announce the long-awaited Santa Rosa platform in the next month. You must have already heard about it.

Its key components are Intel Core 2 Duo with 4 MB cache, 800 MHz FSB, a next-gen chipset from Intel. These processors use Enhanced Dynamic Acceleration Technology. That is if one core of a processor is not necessary for computing (which often happens in non-optimized games), it drops its frequency and even falls asleep. And in this case we can raise frequency of the other core, because the overall thermal emission of the chip will not exceed the maximum value for two loaded cores.

This platform includes the new Intel GM/PM/GL965 Express chipset — it's the best mobile solution these days, according to Intel. Its integrated video card offers excellent performance, so you can play Half-life 2 without any "slow-downs". The chipset is also equipped with deinterlacing functions (like 945 GM). The other feature of Intel Clear Video Technology (ICVT) — Cadence Detection — appeared only in GM 965. Precise color control in GM965 is also an ICVT component. Precise color control comes through Procamp API support.

What concerns Wireless, Santa Rosa uses 802.11n — it's five times as fast, it offers better coverage, security, Stream HD AV. Final specifications of the 802.11n will be ready in Q3 2007. But Intel believes that its current solutions will be fully compatible with final specifications and will have no problems with future 802.11n hardware.

Intel Turbo Memory, previously known as Robson, is a cache technology between a CPU and a HDD memory - it's a flash drive connected via PCI Express x1. This device allows to conserve power when you access a hard drive.

A notebook with Robson (Intel Turbo Memory) 1 GB executed a batch of tasks for 68 seconds, 120 seconds without it.

Perhaps, it will soon be used in all notebooks, because it significantly affects program execution speed. Intel currently offers two memory capacities for this technology (1GB and 4GB), but a notebook manufacturer can buy just a memory controller and install as much memory as necessary.

Mooly Eden also mentioned the recently announced Centrino Pro technology — business optimization of the mobile platform.

However, Mooly thinks that this technology will also attract home users.

The new mobile platform from Intel is an optimal solution for OS Microsoft Vista. It's fully compatible and supports all its functions, including graphics.

How soon will Santa Rosa appear in the market? Very soon, see the roadmap.

About 80% of the new systems will be based on this platform by the end of 2007. It will be a new revolution of the mobile platform, similar to the appearance of Centrino several years ago.

What's next? We'll have Montevina in 2008.

But before that, Santa Rosa will be reinforced (updated) with a new 45nm Penryn processor.

Mooly Eden even demonstrated a 300 mm plate with ready Penryn processors. The Montevina platform will also have a lot of new components — Cantiga chipset, WiMAX+WiFi radio Echo Peak, Robson of the second generation, etc. This platform will certainly use DDR3 memory. But this technology will have to be adapted to notebooks, although SO-DIMM DDR3 modules were already exhibited at IDF showcase. By the way, WiMAX will soon take up 50% of the wireless PC communications market. 100 million people in the USA will use WiMAX by 2008. So combined wireless solutions from Intel must be very popular in notebooks.

In conclusion, the speaker presented a new Mobile Metro Concept notebook.

It's just 0.7"-0.8" thick and has a very attractive design. In fact, this slim wide notebook has a soft (leather) binder with a large built-in e-ink display.

You can output necessary information to this display and then switch the notebook off - the information on this display will stay several days without power supply. So you can see texts and e-mail without opening your notebook.

The prototypes, demonstrated at IDF (including the showcase), used USB and SMBus to connect the cover and the notebook, but production-line models may have different solutions, maybe even wireless. In the latter case, the display will have to be powered from the second (flat and flexible) battery.

The new concept excited much interest.

Later on, in a small group of journalists, Mr. Eden demonstrated a new "secret" form factor for ultra compact mobile processors and chipsets. This platform is codenamed Blue Dolphin. It will be used in various mobile computers.

Compact dimensions of the new package are striking.

* * *

And finally, let's proceed to what we promised in the beginning of the article. On the first official day of IDF Beijing, Justin Rattner and Patrick Gelsinger demonstrated a prototype of Intel 80-core processor. It was working in a testbed with liquid cooling, built with the assistance of Foxconn.

When idle, the system consumed just 6.77 Watt, operating at 0.4 GHz. But when running Partial Differential Equation Solver, the frequency grew to 6.26 GHz, its power consumption grew to 191 Watt. And performance of this system reached 2 TFLOPS!!!

Don't worry about 192 Watt — if you reduce the frequency to 4.68 GHz, this system can consume one quarter of this power, down to 46 Watt. And its performance will remain on the level of 1.5 TFLOPS! You can forget about many things, if you've got such a calculator at hand. ;)


To be continued


Alex Karabuto (lx@ixbt.com)
April 24, 2007

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