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Digital-Daily : CPU & Memory : new_core_conroe

Evolution of the multi-core processor architecture Intel Core: Conroe, Kentsfield...

Evolution of the multi-core processor architecture Intel Core: Conroe, Kentsfield...
Author: Vladimir Romanchenko
Date: 27.06.2006

Undoubtedly, one of the most interesting IT intrigues of this season is the forthcoming announcement of a new generation of the multicore processor architecture Intel Core. Due to Intel's benevolent PR policies on the whole and open contacts with the press in particular, we've known so much about these chips already now, before the official announcement of various processor models. At least this is more than enough that today we are presenting to our readers' attention a review of the architectural changes and improvements implemented in the new generation of processors built on the Intel Core architecture.

It's no longer a secret for anyone that the new dual-core processors having the working names Merom, Conroe, and Woodcrest for the markets of mobile, desktop and server computers, respectively, will have the unified architectural framework under the consolidated name Intel Core (formerly named as Architecture 101), with some additions meeting specific requirements of each market sector. Nevertheless, while presenting the new generation architecture Intel Core, we'll be making the major focus on the chips for desktop PCs the Conroe.

Intel Core Roadmap

Let me put it straight that the story deals solely with the architectural features of Intel's new processors. Therefore, it makes no sense to expect any rumors, leakages or hints regarding the marking of Conroe chips, timelines of their announcements and arrival to the retail, expected prices, etc. The most what the author allowed for himself within this story is assumptions of the probable performance boost at specific applications.

All the other information accompanied by comparative tests of the new chips will be presented to our readers in due time. Now it is just the very moment when it's "better be safe than sorry" and present only authentic information rather than spreading gossip prematurely. I hope our readers, after "digesting" the architectural features of Intel's new generation of processors, will be able not only scrutinizing the "marks" in a laid-back way, but also get a better idea of the causes and consequences which lead to a specific result. Let's start.

Basic formulas defining the efficiency of modern processor architecture

As is known, a few years ago Intel gave up the idea of "boosting megahertz" and headed towards development of efficient processor micro architectures of economical power consumption. In this regard, the maximum operating efficiency of the processor is more dependent directly on the number of instructions executed per cycle rather than the clock speed. In other words, the processor's clock sped is merely one of the factors in this simple formula:

[Performance] = [Clock speed] x [Number of instructions per cycle]

Therefore, in practice you don't have to boost up the clock speed - there are many other effective methods to raise performance substantially. One of the subsets of such methods in particular is the use of currently so popular multicore processing, although, as the practice shows, it's not an easy task to parallelize computations among a number of cores and it can't be "brute-forced".

Intel Core

Another rather effective method to raise one of the factors in the above formula for performance calculation is the method for reducing the number of instructions required to run a specific task or, in other words, the command thread optimization. The most visual example of that is the MMX SIMD-commands (single instruction multiple data) used by Intel in the form of integer 64-bit SIMD instructions since 1996, starting with Pentium chips supporting the MMX, as well as the later introduced 128-bit SIMD floating-point single precision instructions which were first presented in the SSE SIMD-extensions in the Pentium III chip later complemented by SSE2 and SSE3 instruction sets.

Another bright example of the command thread optimization technology is the so-called microfusion technology implying that a number of internal micro-ops of the CPU can be merged into a single micro-op, which substantially reduces the total number of micro-ops required to run a specific task.

At the same time, the current mindset in the industry aimed at production of economical processors requires other computations. Therefore, there has been introduced the concept of optimum performance, which reflects the quantity of energy spent by the CPU to run a specific task. It turns out that the power consumption can be estimated as a product of dynamic capacitance (a ratio of the electrostatic charge of the conductor to the potential between conductors which provide the charge) and the efficiency of executing instructions per cycle, squared supply voltage, and the clock speed:

[Power consumption] = [Dynamic capacity] x [Voltage] x [Voltage] x [Clock speed]

Correlating this equation for the calculation of power consumption versus the previous formula, processor developers will be able to better estimate the optimum balance between the efficiency of the number of instructions executed per cycle, dynamic capacitance, on the one hand, and appropriate supply voltage for the core and buffer circuits in combination with the chip's clock speed, on the other hand. This will let achieve the optimum performance and efficient power consumption.

Intel Core

Intel Core

I apologize for the long-drawn introduction and explanation of the copy-book truth, but this prelude will let you understand the goals and methods used in the development of the new-generation micro architecture Intel Core that offers improved performance and, most importantly, improved per-watt performance.

Main features of the Intel Core architecture

The most precise, authentic and detailed information on the inner structure of Intel's new-generation processors for desktop PCs which are expected to emerge in the nearest future was made public during the spring forums arranged by Intel for developers - Intel Developer Forum, and during the Moscow IDF Spring 2006, in particular. It was just the first time when Intel distinctly pronounced its plans to start deliveries of processors on the base of the Intel Core architecture with the 65-nm process technology already in the third quarter of 2006. That was just the time when it became known for sure that the new architecture will be the framework for processors of all the market sectors desktop PCs (Conroe), mobile PCs (Merom), and servers (Woodcrest).

Intel Conroe

The new chips built on the Intel Core architecture promise a substantial performance boost - from 40% for Conroe up to 80% for Woodcrest, with the power consumption reduced by 35-40%.

That the materials explaining the essence of these innovations have appeared on our site only now is caused by a number of reasons. First, Intel has finally finished rebranding the processor lines and now we can state with confidence that the new chips for desktop PCs will be represented just by the trade marks Intel Core 2 Extreme (Conroe XE) and Intel Core 2 Duo (Conroe, Merom). Secondly, the time passed since the spring IDF has allowed to comprehend the architectural changes and sort out with the operational specifics in order to present the essence of these novelties to our readers at maximum authenticity. Thirdly, Computex 2006 held in the first decade of June, where working prototypes of systems built on the base of Conroe chips were presented, has put everything in the right places: the new-generation architecture has been around for quite a long time not only on paper but also in the form of specimens ready for retail sales. So it is quite possible that selection of the forthcoming date for announcement of Conroe chips is caused more by "marketing policies" considerations rather than production aspects.

The new processor architecture inherits the philosophy of effective power consumption first implemented in Intel Pentium M processors for mobile PCs having the working name Banias. The functional capabilities of the new-generation processors have been improved not only due to the new technologies but also due to the developments successfully used in the chips of the Intel NetBurst architecture. Nevertheless, the key role is played by the innovations first implemented in Intel's new-generation architecture:

  • The Intel Wide Dynamic Execution technology is to provide a greater number of instructions executed per cycle, thus improving the efficiency of running applications and reducing the power consumption. Each core of the processor that supports this technology is now able executing up to four instructions simultaneously using the 14-stage pipeline.
  • The Intel Intelligent Power Capability that enables specific components of the chip only when needed allows to achieve a substantial reduction in the power consumption of the system on the whole.
  • The Intel Advanced Smart Cache technology implies using a unified L2 cache memory common for all the cores, whose joint use allows to cut down the power consumption and raise the performance. At the same time, one of the processor cores may use up the whole volume of the cache memory whenever needed, with the other core disabled dynamically.
  • The Intel Smart Memory Access technology increases the system performance due to the reduced memory response time and thus optimized bandwidth of the memory subsystem.
  • The Intel Advanced Digital Media Boost technology allows processing all the 128-bit SSE, SSE2, and SSE3 commands widely used in multimedia and graphic applications in one cycle, which increased their speed of execution.

These are the major changes introduced into the new generation of the Intel Core micro architecture. It is now time we dwelled on each of them.


  • Page 1 - New Intel Core architecture
  • Page 2 - Features of Intel Core - I
  • Page 3 - Features of Intel Core - II. Summing up

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