Intel held a keynote at Hot Chips conference in Stanford University last week where it announced some details of upcoming Itanium CPUs. While originally meant to conquer the enterprise market, Itanium is mostly used for the ultra high end enterprise space. Itanium isn't backwards compatible with x86 and uses Intel's VLIW IA-64 architecture. Intel claims that Itanium is a four billion dollar business and more than 80% of world's top 100 companies utilize Itanium.

The codename for the new CPUs is "Poulson" and it is the 10th Itanium CPU lineup. The biggest updates are a new architecture, twice as many cores (up to eight), twice the instruction throughput and a 32nm process. 

Comparison of Itanium CPUs
  Poulson Tukwila
Core/Thread Count Up to 8/16 Up to 4/8
Frequency TBA Up to 1.73GHz
L3 Cache Up to 32MB (?) Up to 24MB
Manufacturing Process 32nm 65nm
Transistor Count 3.1 billion 2.046 billion
Die Size 544mm^2 (?) 699mm^2

What's interesting is that Intel is skipping the 45nm process totally and going straight for 32nm. The process change alone would be huge but throw in a new architecture too and Poulson looks like a major upgrade from Tukwila. Doubling the cores is a very aggressive move as well, although not surprising due to the die shrink.

Lets look at the new architecture and the features it provides. First, the new architecture will bring a new feature: Intel Instruction Replay Technology. By inserting instruction buffers between pipeline stages Poulson can more quickly recover from an error in the pipeline. Rather than having to completely flush the pipeline and start over from scratch, Poulson can simply begin execution at the last known good instruction buffer. 

Second, the Hyper-Threading Technology receives some improvements. Intel calls the new feature dual-domain multithreading, which Intel describes as allowing for independent front end and back end pipeline execution. 

Since the introduction of Tukwila in 2010, Itanium CPUs have shared the same chipset as Xeon MP CPUs (Becton and Westmere-EX) - i.e. the 7500 chipset. Poulson will continue this pattern and will use the same 7500 chipset as its predecessor. This was and still is a smart move from Intel as it allows clients to reuse many elements of existing Itanium designs.

Source: Intel



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  • silverblue - Monday, August 22, 2011 - link

    What will this mean for HP's "civil lawsuit against Oracle for discontinuing software development on Intel's Itanium processor platform" (taken from )? Oracle swears that Intel is ending Itanium, but HP will use this news in an effort to boost their legal case. Reply
  • Belard - Monday, August 22, 2011 - link

    Yeah... considering that HP doesn't actually develop or invent anything. And who else Ben works with such chips. Reply
  • Hector2 - Monday, August 22, 2011 - link

    Intel is going to double the number of Core, substantially increase the L3 Cache, undoubtedly increase the frequency, increase the transistor count by 50% and still knock off ~25% of the chip area.

    I'm really curious about the power, but going to 32nm and reducing the chip size ought to decrease that quite a bit as well.
  • Arnulf - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    So RMS Itanic will be going down in a blaze of glory. A fitting end for the project that has probably devoured as much money as it has made. Reply
  • Holly - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    Doubt the money part would be that simple... I am quite convinced smaller of bigger parts of Itaniums logic is running in these days mainstream Intel CPUs by recycling/finalizing the logic developed for Itaniums. Reply
  • Hector2 - Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - link

    This seems like a pretty significant effort. What was Oracle smoking when they said Intel wouldn't be investing in it anymore ? Reply

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