CPU Guide

Intel's 2009 CPU Roadmap & the 32nm Westmere Connection

Intel's 2009 CPU Roadmap & the 32nm Westmere Connection



Westmere - The 32nm Hop

Westmere - The 32nm Hop

So what does the Westmere microarchitecture have in store for us? Besides being a die-shrunk Nehalem architecture as we first shared with you this time last year , Westmere will incorporate seven new instructions. Known as AES New Instructions, they greatly assist in accelerating AES encryption/decryption algorithms. Other advantages of Westmere squarely stem from its finer process technology such as smaller die sizes, lowered cost per die and of course increased performance per watt metrics when compared against a similar processor based on the Nehalem microarchitecture.

Here's what Intel has lined up for Westmere processors:-

Now if you've paid attention to the above roadmap, you'll find two startling facts. Firstly, the current Core i7 processor's 32nm successor will be a hex-core processor that will process up to 12 threads simultaneously with HyperThreading! Not that we really need that many processing cores, but if you deal with software that does scale with processor count, this is great news. However, that's probably a very niche group of power users. Still, this is progress and we can only hope Windows 7 has better native multi-core support as well as better multi-core enhanced software to leverage all this power.

The other startling fact is that there's no quad-core 32nm processor lined up. Instead, Intel jumps to capture the value mainstream segment with a dual-core Westmere processor with an integrated graphics core on a separate silicon! You've read right folks, this multi-chip package processor will actually be Intel's first 32nm processor.

However the conundrum is that integrated graphics engine is still on a 45nm process technology. This might pose a power regulation issue between both dies as their voltage and current draw would differ, though Intel thinks they have all that sorted out. If you're curious on the graphics engine that would be paired with the processor, we've found out from Intel that it's just a more advanced version of the current G45 graphics core and not a Larrabee variant. So that should set the expectations of the integrated graphics engine and the target group for this processor - strictly value mainstream.

Interestingly though, the graphics engine actually incorporates the memory controller which might greatly improve the performance of the graphics engine. We'll get to know how that turns out end of the year.

Intel's 32nm Westmere Microarchitecture Processors
Segment Processor Code Physical / Logical Cores Socket Memory Controller Chipsets Supported Availability
High-end Desktop Gulftown 6 / 12 LGA-1366 Tri-channel Intel X58 First-half 2010
Mainstream Desktop Clarkdale 2 / 4 + IGP LGA-1156 Dual-channel Intel 5 series (undisclosed) End 2009
Mobile Arrandale 2 / 4 + IGP mPGA-989 (not confirmed) Dual-channel Intel Mobile 5 series (undisclosed) End 2009

Looks like the performance mainstream segment won't see a 32nm part till much later in 2010 when Sandy Bridge shows up with its new microarchitecture. Meanwhile here's a peak at a mainstream Westmere platform:-