Intel Q&A: Homework for motherboard makers
Sunil Kumar, Intel’s director of chipset marketing, discusses Intel’s latest desktop platform advances and current trends in PC technology
Dual-core: chipset arbitration is necessary
Q: Dual-core processing is probably the most anticipated technology in the IT industry now. How do you plan to support it with chipsets? Will new dual-core supporting Intel chipsets incorporate any arbitration functions?
A: This quarter, we’re going to introduce the 945 and 955X chipsets to support the first generation of our dual-core desktop processors, codenamed Smithfield. Yes, there are some arbitration mechanisms in the chipsets, but, of course, there are some others in the processors themselves.
Q: Since Intel is going to dual-core and then multi-core processors, higher bus bandwidth becomes more critical. How does the company plan to improve the FSB (front side bus) technology for the desktop processors?
A: So far, our plan is to scale the FSB frequency as next generations of dual-core desktop processors come out. At first, they will utilize the existing FSB architecture operating at 800MHz, but second- and third-generation dual-core desktop processors will have faster FSBs. There are many levers to improve system performance. Opening up system bandwidth on the chipset is one way as more devices interact with the PC. On the CPU side you can increase cache, for increased Hyper-Threading capabilities or additional cores.
Q: Will Intel desktop processors be using the same the socket over the next couple of years?
A: Let’s say we will want to use this socket for a certain period of time. Looking back, you will see that we have used our processor sockets with, at least, two or three generations of chipsets. Based on this principle, we can expect the next transition in 2006 or later.
DDR2: mass adoption later this year
Q: Traditionally, Intel has a big impact on memory technologies. What is your expectation for DDR2? When do you expect it to have a mass market?
A: Last year, we introduced the first chipsets with DDR2 support, but this memory type is still on its way to a mass-market presence. After recent consultations with motherboard makers, I can say that, generally, we all expect mass adoption of DDR2 in the second half of this year, and most likely the process will be driven by DDR2-533. As for DDR2-667, it will be supported by forthcoming chipsets such as the 945G, 945P and 955X. Then, it’s entirely up to DRAM makers as to how to drive volume production and shipments.
Q: What is your opinion about the new Rambus technology called XDR (previously codenamed Yellowstone)? Do you see any opportunities for adoption of XDR by the PC industry?
A: I can say that, at least for the next couple of generations of our desktop platforms we see DDR2 as the mainstream memory technology.
Q: Intel seems to be the most active promoter of FB-DIMMs. Do you think this technology is suitable only for servers and high-end workstations, or will FB-DIMMs penetrate the desktop also?
A: Currently we have no plans to support FB-DIMM technology on desktop platforms because these platforms target the volume market. Naturally, this market can’t accept too much additional cost. This is the main reason why we will continue to support standard unbuffered DIMMs.
2005 is the year of PCI Express
Q: Do you anticipate 2005 to be the year of PCI Express (PCIe)? When do you see this technology displacing AGP and legacy peripheral buses?