Intel Archive

Hyperthreading–a Sleeping Giant?

HP and Dell, among other workstation manufacturers, have been shipping their systems with the function turned off. Right now, workstation makers say, the broad array of software used in that segment of the market doesn't take advantage of the technology yet. Users, though, can easily turn on the hyperthreading function if they wish (in the BIOS). Although the situation will change, the wrinkle in the workstation market--where Intel said users could see performance benefits of up to 30 percent on select applications--underscores the difficulties in gaining broad acceptance and use for a new technology. Only 30 apps had been fully optimized for the Pentium4 CPU in the first 9 months the chip was on sale.

Hot Contraband: P4 With 3.6 GHz

Too hot to handle: Intel aims to launch the P4 3.6 GHz in mid-2003. For this exclusive report, Tom's Hardware Guide tested CPUs of the future, bringing you benchmarks for P4s in the 3.6 GHz, 3.33 GHz and 3.06 GHz variations. The article also tests against the future AMD AthlonXP 3000+ and 3400+. Update: More information on Intel's plans and technogies for the future.

First SPEC Results for Itanium2

While the first generation of Itanium left many people dissapointed about its performance (mostly because people were trying to run and benchmark 32-bit code, while the CPU only shines when running native 64-bit code), it seems that Intel is back with a vengeance. The new Itanium2, ready to ship in a few months, scores some very good results in the CPU/compiler intense, industry standard benchmark, SPEC. While its integer capabilities are average to good, its floating point ones is the best thing out there today, scoring even better than the IBM Power4 (which includes a whopping 128 MB of cache). What's very interesting in the results is that both the Power4 and the Itanium2 score poorly on MesaGL, Perl and gzip tests but they are adequate on the gcc test. This is possibly because they're optimized for heavily streaming operations, big matrices. For a short commentary on the results check here. AMD Opteron SPEC results are not available yet.

The 64-Bit Question

"Here's a riddle: What's a little bigger than a Wheat Thin, has more transistors than the adult population of the United States, draws as much power as a small vacuum cleaner, and costs as much as a top-quality HDTV? Give up? It's Intel's 64-bit McKinley CPU, soon to be released as Itanium 2. McKinley is the newest member of the IA64 processor family." Read the article at MCPMag.

What the Hell is Hyper-Threading?

"Announced last autumn, Intel's Hyper-Threading technology has finally made it to market, courtesy of the latest Xeon processors. Hyper-Threading is a clever way of making a single chip operate like two separate devices without implementing two cores on one die. That, claims Intel, makes for higher performance without having to resort to significantly larger chips or even adding a second processor to the system." The story is at TheRegUS. Alan Cox says that the technology can bring up to 30% more performance than the same CPU running without Hyper-Threading, but special conditions have to be met, for example, the applications need to be programmed as multi-threaded. The right hardware for the right software.

Intel Unleashes Speedy Xeon, Server Chip Set

The new Xeons server-oriented CPUs, known by the code name Prestonia, will be offered at 2.2GHz for $615, 2GHz for $417 and 1.8GHz for $251. The Xeons, based on the Pentium 4 architecture, are also the first to incorporate a performance-enhancing technology called hyperthreading. The new feature essentially enables a single Xeon to act like virtual dual processors. When used in conjunction with software designed for multi-CPU systems, hyperthreading can provide up to a 40 percent boost in performance compared with a same-speed Xeon with hyperthreading disabled, Intel officials said. In other hardware news, Seagate demonstrated a Serial ATA-enabled hard drive at the Intel Developer Forum today in San Francisco.

Intel Application Accelerator 2.0 Released

If you are the lucky owner of one of these Intel motherboard chipsets, you can now install the Intel Application Accelerator 2.0, a new performance software package for Intel-based desktop PCs. This new version brings the following enhancements: faster boot time, accelerated disk I/O for games, graphics Applications, disk utilities, and edia authoring applications, performance-enhancing data pre-fetcher for Intel Pentium 4 processor-based systems, support for 137+ GB IDE hard drives. Check a benchmark here. The download supports Windows NT4/2000, Windows 98/SE/Me & WindowsXP Home/Pro.

Dell Discontinues Intel Itanium Workstation

"Dell Computer Corp. has discontinued its Itanium-based workstation due to weak demand, marking another setback in Intel Corp.'s efforts to promote its 64-bit chip released eight months ago." Read the rest of the report at ExtremeTech. Our Take: It is astonishing (and truly disapointing) to see a super-chip (a real wonder in the CPU design), like Itanium is, not being able to sell well, mostly because sysadmins not wanting to give up on x86. I think, now I understand better when software companies choose to support legacy code, even if it bloats their product. It seems to be a necessary reason to commercially succeed, no matter what we geeks say about clean designs and speed. Let's see what the new Intel 64-bit CPU McKinley can do in the marketplace. The failure of Itanium so far also caused Intel to try competing with AMD Hammer in the x86-64 bit area.

Intel Designs a 64bit x86 CPU?

Rumors abound that Intel is designing 64bit extensions to it's Pentium line, in case Itanium turns out to be a flop: "Intel's decision to back the novel Itanium architecture had upset a small group of Intel engineers in Oregon, who preferred to build on the x86 legacy. When AMD released the specifications of its upcoming 64-bit chips in the summer of 2000, these ``cowboy'' engineers decided that Intel needed to match its rival. They began developing their own 64-bit extensions to the Pentium line, making sure the code was compatible with AMD's design." Update: MercuryCenter has an article about this too.

Intel Launches New Compilers for Linux

From the Press Release: "Intel Corp today announced version 5.0 of the Intel C++ Compiler for Linux and the Intel Fortran Compiler for Linux. The compilers are specifically designed to help developers fully utilize the architectural innovations in the Intel Itanium and Pentium 4 processors, allowing for easy access to all of the performance features of Intel's latest processors." Our Take: The big news is not just to dryily report this release for Linux. The real news here is that Linux can now have an incredibly good compiler. Sharing a house with 4 ex-Be engineers in the past taught me at least one thing: the Intel compilers are many times faster (in generated executable code quality and compilation speed) than GCC 3.X and even VC++. While GCC is free and Intel's Proton costs $399, still, for professional use or for apps where execution speed matters (games or scientific software for example), Proton and VTune seems like the clear choice.