The Future Revealed (Part 1)

12/20/2012 9:27:55 AM

The Chip Giant Plans to bring the pain to competitors across the board next year

In The Coming Months, Intel partisans will get two significant offerings: The biggest change will be the CPU known as Haswell.

It’s a tock’ in Intel’s so called tick tock design parlance, and therefore a more substantial advance in processing. Remember, the bigger leaps, or tocks, are offset from the manufacturing process changes. So, while you might expect the debut of a smaller process to yield a really butt kicking CPU, that’s not how the conservative company operates.

Intel instead pioneers a new process with a modestly improved CPU a tick. “Only after the new process version is fully vetted and working with that chip does Intel decide to push performance, with a tock.” For example, the original groundbreaking Core 2 CPU was built on the same existing and well tread 65nm process technology Intel had been using for the Pentium 4. And when Intel, made the switch to 45nm, it debuted with a conservative jump ahead with the Yorkfield and Wotfdale CPUs.

 Haswell is the successor to the Sandy Bridge

 Haswell is the successor to the Sandy Bridge

With its 3D 22nm CPUs now well proven in the Ivy Bridge series of Core ix chips, Intel is going to swing for the fences with Haswell. Also built on the 22nm process, Haswell features more transistors in increasing parallelism for single threaded applications and more efficient multithreaded code. But don’t think HaswelI, is going to a six-core CPU or an eight core package like AMDs new Vishera, to say nothing of a 12 threaded jobbie Like the Core i7-3960X. For its mainstream CPUs, Intel’s guiding principle will be to push performance per-core rather than increase core or thread count. So expect Haswell to come in the form of quad-core with Hyper-Threading, quad-core without Hyper Threading. as well as dual-cores with HT on and off.

Lest you doubt that Intel can produce a performance boost worthy of a tock” without increasing core or thread count. Intel says it can by extracting more performance out of existing code and making it easier to code for multicores. Haswell features deeper buffers, more execution units, improved branch pre diction, increased internal L2 bandwidth, and two sets of new instructions intended to increase performance.


Just about every nerd knows that high performance computing Loads can benefit greatly from the GPU’s inherent strengths in processing many parallel tasks. Even Intel has finally taken graphics seriously and its integrated graphics have gotten surprisingly powerful for not just gaming, but also compute purposes. But old habits die hard and Intel apparently doesn’t want to cede compute performance to the GPU just yet. As evidence, Intel is introducing the new AVX2 instruction set. AVX2 essentially doubles the performance per cycle over AVX in the original Sandy Bridge CPU. AVX2 won’t just benefit supercomputer workloads; theoretically, it will also greatly increase video encoding and gaming performance, as well.

Intel Tsx

The biggest brain bender of a feature in Haswell may be the new transactional synchronization extensions, or TSX. TSX is designed to make it far easier to write multithreaded code.

One example of where TSX is handy is in changing values in a table. Imagine that you and your co-workers are simultaneously editing, say, a spreadsheet. It doesn’t take too long to figure out what happens when Ed needs to change how many transmissions are in stock at the same time that Harold and John decide to do it, too.

TSX is designed to make it far easier to write multithreaded code.

TSX is designed to make it far easier to write multithreaded code.

To prevent utter chaos, there are two routes the programmer can take: The easiest is to lock the entire table (or using our example, the entire spreadsheet) so that only one thread, or worker, can edit it at a time. This is called a coarse grain lock. The problem here is that now Harold. John, Wai, and the other four workers sit idle while waiting for Ed to update his information in the spreadsheet. To extract more performance, a programmer can slice and dice the entire table into smaller sections so each can be locked when accessed. This is called a fine-grain Lock and it’s akin to breaking the spreadsheet into a dozen pieces so more people can edit it at the same time. But a fine grain lock entails a Lot more code for the programmer to write and balance. What TSX does is add logic, so the processor itself can sense when the same table is being written to by different threads. So if two workers try to write to the same part of the spreadsheet, TSX acts as the traffic cop and either tells one of the workers to chill for a second or sends both to the break room. The programmer only needs to set the rules for how TSX wilt bounce the workers.

The programmer only needs to set the rules for how TSX wilt bounce the workers.

The programmer only needs to set the rules for how TSX wilt bounce the workers.

From an efficiency point of view, TSX promises the performance of slicing and dicing that table into Little pieces but with the programming simplicity of locking the entire table.

A New Socket

Every spring, Intel performs the same ritual. It clears the cobwebs off of its test benches, donates the old, ill-fitting Lab coats to some disadvantaged company stilt using a 32nm process, and, well, drop-kicks the mainstream consumer motherboard socket into the dustbin. Well. guess what? It’s that time of year again and LGA1155 is going to join the likes of LGA1156 and LGA1 366 in a rat-infested landfill.

As usual, the change isn’t being made just to piss you off (at Least. we think), but rather to accommodate additional functionality being moved into the processor. LGA1155 is dead. but at least Intel isn’t killing the cooler offsets. Like the move from LGA1156to LGA1155. it looks Like LGA115O will be able to use the same heatsinks as its predecessor.

Beyond core improvements. Intel is promising huge gains in power conservation, too. How huge? About a 40 percent decrease in power consumption while offering more performance. Intel says it will have mobile versions of Haswell that will cut power consumption down to 10 watts versus the 17 watts consumed by a comparable Ivy Bridge such as the 3GHz Core i7-3517 U.

Overall, Haswell is indeed shaping up to be an epic new processor but one thing no one knows is when it will arrive. Intel’s only comment at this point is, sometime next year.”  

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