Intel unveils 22nm CPU – and Nehalem’s successor

The 2009 Intel Developer Forum has opened in San Francisco with the unveiling of several major new technologies.

32nm chips “already in production”

CEO Paul Otellini kicked off the event with an announcement that CPUs based on the company’s new 32nm architecture – codenamed Westmere – are now in production, ready for a launch in the fourth quarter of this year. CPUs built with the smaller process should offer better performance and power efficiency at a lower unit cost.

Westmere also includes some new extensions to accelerate tasks such as encryption. Otellini demonstrated that a system based on a new Westmere-based CPU (codenamed Arrandale) was able to perform AES encryption and decryption more than three times as quickly as existing CPUs.

Stay tuned for more announcements on Westmere and other Intel products and projects over the three days of IDF.

22nm silicon up and running

Otellini also revealed that the company has already produced its first processor built to a 22nm process. As yet only simple test chips have been manufactured, but reportedly both RAM and logic transistors have been successfully produced.

According to Intel’s roadmap, 22nm CPUs aren’t expected to become mainstream until 2012, but the announcement made a clear statement that Intel is firmly on schedule.

First look at Sandy Bridge

The revelation that caused the most excitement was a demonstration of Sandy Bridge – the new microarchitecture that’s due to replace Nehalem (currently used by Core i7 and Core i5 processors) towards the end of 2010.

No technical details were revealed, though Intel has revealed that the architecture will support GPU and CPU functions on a single die, and further announcements are expected during IDF.

But the mere sight of a Sandy Bridge system running Windows 7 and performing real-world tasks so far ahead of its launch date prompted spontaneous applause from IDF delegates.

The overall message was a confident demonstration of Intel’s ability to keep producing major new technologies on schedule – or even ahead of it.

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