Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

First Dual-Core Pentium 4 a Rush Job, Intel Says

Filed under
Hardware

Intel's first dual-core chip was a hastily concocted design that was rushed out the door in hopes of beating rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) to the punch, an Intel engineer told attendees at the Hot Chips conference today.

Following the company's realization that its single-core processors had hit a wall, Intel engineers plunged headlong into designing the Smithfield dual-core chip in 2004, but they faced numerous challenges in getting that chip to market, according to Jonathan Douglas, a principal engineer in Intel's Digital Enterprise Group, which makes chips for office desktops and servers.

"We faced many challenges from taking a design team focused on making the highest-performing processors possible to one focused on multicore designs," Douglas said in a presentation on Intel's Pentium D 800 series desktop chips and the forthcoming Paxville server chip, both of which are based on the Smithfield core.

Same Old Bus

Intel was unable to design a new memory bus in time for the dual-core chip, so it kept the same bus structure that older Pentium 4 chips used, Douglas said at the conference at Stanford University. This bus could support two separate single-core processors, but it was far less efficient than either the dual-independent buses that will appear on the Paxville processors or the integrated memory controller used on AMD's chips. The memory bus or front-side bus on Intel's chips is used to connect the processor to memory.

All of Intel's testing tools and processes had been designed for single-core chips, Douglas said. As a result, the company had to quickly devise a new testing methodology for dual-core chips that could measure the connections between both cores.

In addition, engineers had to design a new package for the Pentium D chips that could accommodate both cores. "We're putting two cores in one package; it's like trying to fit into the pair of pants you saved from college," Douglas said.

Another Design Preferred

Intel would have preferred to design a package that put two pieces of silicon in a single package, like the design that will be used for a future desktop chip called Presler, but its packaging team simply didn't have time to get that in place for Smithfield, Douglas said.

The company's Pentium D processors consist of two Pentium 4 cores placed closely together on a single silicon die. The design creates some problems, since dual-core processors must have some logic that coordinates the actions of both cores, and those transistors must go somewhere in an already small package, Douglas said. This complication led to signaling problems that needed to be overcome, he said.

Intel also had to design special thermal diodes into the chip to closely monitor the heat emitted by the combination of two fast processor cores, Douglas said.

Ultimately, Intel completed the Smithfield processor core in nine months, Douglas said. By Intel's standards, that is an extremely short development time for a major processor design, said Kevin Krewell, editor in chief of The Microprocessor Report in San Jose, California.

"Most designs take years," Krewell said. "But it was very important for them to get back in the game and have a road map."

Timeline

Intel began to put together the Smithfield project around the time it publicly announced (in May 2004) plans to cancel two future single-core designs and concentrate on multicore chips. The company realized that wringing more clock speed out of its single-core designs would require a significant engineering effort to deal with the excessive heat given off by such chips.

At the time, AMD had already started work on a dual-core version of its Opteron server processor, which it subsequently demonstrated in September of that year. AMD unveiled its dual-core Opteron chip in April, a few days after Intel launched Smithfield. AMD has since released dual-core desktop chips.

One reason for Intel's aggressive schedule for developing Smithfield was the company's need to respond to AMD's actions, Douglas said, without mentioning AMD by name. "We needed a competitive response. We were behind," he said.

Despite the rush, Smithfield was good enough to get Intel into the dual-core era, Krewell said. "It's not an optimal solution, but it's a viable solution. It works, and it works reasonably well," he said.

Intel took a little more time designing the server version of Smithfield, known as Paxville, Douglas said. For instance, the company addressed the bus inefficiencies by designing Paxville to use dual-independent front-side buses. Also, the more sophisticated package was available in time for Paxville, reducing the chip's power consumption, he said.

Paxville will be released ahead of schedule later this year in separate versions for two-way servers and for servers with four or more processors. Though Intel had originally expected to release the chip in 2006, it announced Monday that it will get Paxville out the door in the second half of this year. Another dual-core server processor, code-named Dempsey, will be released in the first quarter of 2006.

Future multicore designs will present additional challenges, Douglas said. Point-to-point buses and integrated memory controllers have been prominent features of other multicore designs, such as Opteron and the Cell processor. These designs help improve performance, but they require a larger number of pins to deliver electricity into the processor, and that can hurt yields, he said.

By Tom Krazit
IDG News Service

More in Tux Machines

OSS Leftovers

  • Nextcloud 12 Officially Released, Adds New Architecture for Massive Scalability
    Nextcloud informs Softpedia today about the official availability of the final release of Nextcloud 12, a major milestone of the self-hosting cloud server technology that introduces numerous new features and improvements. The biggest new feature of the Nextcloud 12 release appears to be the introduction of a new architecture for massive scalability, called Global Scale, which is a next-generation open-source technology for syncing and sharing files. Global Scale increases scalability from tens of thousands of users to hundreds of millions on a single instance, while helping universities and other institutions significantly reduce the costs of their existing large installations.
  • ReactOS 0.4.5 Open-Source Windows-Compatible OS Launches with Many Improvements
    ReactOS 0.4.5 is a maintenance update that adds numerous changes and improvements over the previous point release. The kernel has been updated in this version to improve the FreeLoader and UEFI booting, as well as the Plug and Play modules, adding support for more computers to boot ReactOS without issues.
  • Sprint Debuts Open Source NFV/SDN Platform Developed with Intel Labs
    AT&T has been the headliner in the carrier race to software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV). But Sprint is putting its own stamp on the space this week with its debut of a new open source SDN/NFV mobile core solution.
  • Google’s New Home for All Things Open Source Runs Deep
    Google is not only one of the biggest contributors to the open source community but also has a strong track record of delivering open source tools and platforms that give birth to robust technology ecosystems. Just witness the momentum that Android and Kubernetes now have. Recently, Google launched a new home for its open source projects, processes, and initiatives. The site runs deep and has several avenues worth investigating. Here is a tour and some highlights worth noting.
  • Making your first open source contribution
  • Simplify expense reports with Smart Receipts
    The app is called Smart Receipts, it's licensed AGPL 3.0, and the source code is available on GitHub for Android and iOS.
  • How the TensorFlow team handles open source support
    Open-sourcing is more than throwing code over the wall and hoping somebody uses it. I knew this in theory, but being part of the TensorFlow team at Google has opened my eyes to how many different elements you need to build a community around a piece of software.
  • IRC for the 21st Century: Introducing Riot
    Internet relay chat (IRC) is one of the oldest chat protocols around and still popular in many open source communities. IRC's best strengths are as a decentralized and open communication method, making it easy for anyone to participate by running a network of their own. There are also a variety of clients and bots available for IRC.

Tizen News: Phones and TVs

  • Tizen 3.0-powered Samsung Z4 now available with offline retailers in india
    The Samsung Z4, the fourth smartphone in Samsung’s Z series and a successor to the Z2 (and not the Z3, as many would assume), has been formally announced and made an appearance at the Tizen Developer Conference (TDC 2017) this past week. The Z4 was rumoured to make its way to India on May 19th (Friday) and it did – arriving with offline retailers after launching in the country last Monday (one week ago).
  • Samsung 2017 QLED TVs World First to support autocalibration for HDR
  • Samsung approves You.i TV video platform for Tizen TV app development
    While Samsung has developed Tizen TV apps using JavaScript, You.i TV’s Engine Video app runs on Native Client (NACL), a web technology that does not only allows C++ applications to run in a standard browser but is said to be 24 times faster than JavaScript. Now that Samsung has approved You.i TV’s video engine platform, developers can craft more video content for Tizen Smart TV owners.
  • Samsung Smart TV gets a new Glympse app that enables location sharing on the TV
    Samsung Smart TV, powered by the intuitive, self-developed Tizen operating system, has gotten a cool new app which enables consumers to view the location of their friends, loved ones or even a pizza delivery or cable technician in real-time directly from their home’s largest screen. The new app is developed by Glympse, the leading real-time location services platform.

How To Encrypt DNS Traffic In Linux Using DNSCrypt

​Dnscrypt is a protocol that is used to improve DNS security by authenticating communications between a DNS client and a DNS resolver. DNSCrypt prevents DNS spoofing. It uses cryptographic signatures to verify that responses originate from the chosen DNS resolver and haven’t been tampered with. DNSCrypt is available for multi-platforms including Windows, MacOS, Unix, Android, iOS, Linux and even routers. Read
more

Debian-Based Untangle 13.0 Linux Firewall Tackles Bufferbloat, Adds New Features

Untangle NG Firewall, the open-source and powerful Debian-based network security platform featuring pluggable modules for network apps, has been updated to version 13.0, a major release adding new features and numerous improvements. The biggest improvement brought by the Untangle NG Firewall 13.0 release is to the poor latency generated by excess buffering in networking equipment, called bufferbloat, by supporting a queueing algorithm designed to optimize QoS and bandwidth to enforce a controlled delay. Read more