Intel Unveils Westmere-EX 10-Core CPU

Chipmaker doesn’t reveal launch date for the Westmere-EX

Intel likely today set those looking to deploy a high-performance single socket server solution salivating with its unveiling of the Westmere-EX. Following the Gulftown lineup — which trickled out starting in March 2010 — the Westmere-EX is Intel’s latest 32 nm Westmere chip.

Westmere is very similar to the Nehalem 45 nm architecture, meaning it’s a “tick” design — not a major redesign. That’s not to say there isn’t enough to be excited about here, though. Intel is making good use of its extra die space saved by the shrink and the Westmere-EX packs an incredible 10 cores in a single socket package. That adds up to a total of 20 threads.

For the supercomputing-minded, the new chip bumps the amount of usable memory from 1TB (64 DIMM slots) to 2TB. There’s no official word on the name of the processor — past Gulftown server designs were in the Xeon 3600- and 5600-series. Also not revealed are clock speeds and launch date.

Perhaps more exciting was new details Intel revealed about its upcoming “tock” (architecture redesign), code-named Sandy Bridge. The upcoming 32 nm architecture will feature a ring design for its last-level cache access. Cache will be accessible by an on-chip 3D Graphics Processing Unit, the four (or potentially more) cores, and the Media Processing unit. The ring bus is designed to deliver high-bandwidth to the various connected cores in the chip.

Intel will keep the CORE-ix brand names for its upcoming “Sandy Bridge” architecture redesign.

“Sandy Bridge” will use a ring bus to allow the on-chip cores and media units (including the on-die GPU) to access the cache.

The processor will feature the return of Turbo Boost mode, which allows the easy overclocking of Intel’s processors.

Sandy Bridge PC processors will keep the CORE-i3, i5, and i7 designations and will be rebranded the “new CORE-i3…” That approach is likely to create confusion among customers about exactly what they’re buying, given that the average user likely wouldn’t be able to pick a Nehalem i7 from a Westmere i7 or Sandy Bridge i7.

On a more positive note, though, AnandTech is reporting that the Media Processing Unit will include video transcode hardware. In a demo that hardware crunched ~1 minute long 30Mbps 1080p HD video clip to an iPhone compatible format in under 10 seconds. The transcode hardly can be viewed as Intel’s attempt to fend of NVIDIA’s GPU computing from entering the consumer market.

GPU computing is a hot new field of computing — it centers around the notion that dedicated video hardware can outperform CPUs at a number tasks, including chemical simulations, video encoding, physics simulations, and more.


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