Unlike the chicken and the egg, in today's multicore environment, we can definitively say the hardware came first, and we're beginning to wonder if the software will ever come at all. We're not referring to the handful of games and applications that are multicore friendly, but the widespread development of software to take advantage of multiple cores.
So what's the holdup? According to participants at last week's Multicore Expo in Santa Clara, California, programming challenges remain. While there's no shortage of multicore processors in the wild, much of the software being written is still being geared towards single-core computing.
"Looking at the specifications for these software products, it is clear that many will be challenged to support the hardware configurations possible today and those that will be accelerating in the future," said Carl Claunch, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "The impact is akin to putting a Ferrari engine in a go-cart; the power may be there, but design mismatches severely limit the ability to exploit it."
The above statement comes from a report Gartner released two months ago. In it, Claunch goes on to explain that the software running today's servers have both hard and soft limits on the number of processors the software can effectively handle, the latter of which requires trial and error to overcome.
Parallel computing may seem like a no-brainer, but programmers point to the potential of new types of software bugs and lack of programming tools. On the bright side, more tools are emerging, and both Intel and AMD have made it clear that the future of computing lies in multiple cores. That future will be realized once software development catches up to the hardware.
Intel has made quite the splash in both the nettop and netbook markets with its low-power Atom processors, but it will be another month before the chip maker dives into the mobile internet device (MID) end of the electronics pool, says DigiTimes.
Citing un-named "sources at MID makers," the news and rumor site reports Intel has postponed the launch of its Atom Z550 and Z515 Atom CPUs to mid-April, both of which are intended for MIDs. When it launches, the Atom Z550 will run at 2.0GHz, making it the fastest clockspeed Atom to date. It will offer the same 2.4W rated TDP, 512KB of L2 cache, and 533MHz frontside bus. The Z515 will run a tick slower at 1.2GHz. Both chips sport an average power consumption of just .22W.
The Z550 will boast support for Intel's US15W chipset, while the Atom Z515 will support both the US15W and low-power UL11L chipsets. In addition, the Z515 will also feature Intel's new Burst Performance Technology (BPT), which will adjust the core clockspeed based on performance requirements.
According to news and rumor site DigiTimes, Intel doesn't have much in the way of upcoming Core i7 processor price cuts, but if you're looking to piece together a Core 2 machine, look for some pretty significant reductions in the near future.
Citing un-named motherboard makers, the site claims Intel will drop pricing on several quad-core processors on April 12. These include:
Core 2 Quad Q9300 - $266 down to $213 (19.92%)
Core 2 Quad Q9550S - $369 down to $320 (13.28%)
Core 2 Quad Q9400S - $320 down to $277 (13.44%)
Core 2 Quad Q8200S - $245 down to $213 (13.06%)
On May 31, DigiTimes says Intel will introduce a handful of new processors, among them the Core i7 975 (3.33GHz) for $999 and Core i7 950 (3.06GHz) for $562.
Hit the jump to see what other new processors Intel has in store for May, along with what other price cuts to expect this summer.
The dispute between Intel and Nvidia over disagreements pertaining to Intel's Nehalem chipset license almost seems like old news now that Intel and AMD are going at each other. Intel claims AMD doesn't have the legal wherewithal to "unilaterally extend Intel's licensing rights to a third party," which in this case would be Globalfoundries, and has threatened to pull its 2001 agreement within 60 days if AMD doesn't address Intel's concerns. AMD, on the other hand, says it isn't doing anything wrong.
So who's in the right? To help determine that, Intel has offered to make the terms of the x86 cross-licensing deal public, for which AMD has agreed, but not without a stipulation. AMD wants Intel to lift the secrecy demand on all antiturst evidence submitted by AMD in the 2006 antitrust case.
"We will make the entire cross-license agreement public if they drop their insistence on secrecy on the evidence in the U.S. antitrust case," said Patrick Moorehead, AMD VP of marketing.
Intel does't appear willing to do so, and as far as the No. 1 chipmaker is concerned, AMD might just as well have rejected the offer outright.
"Intel is willing to make the entire [x86 cross-license] agreement public," said Chuck Mulloy, Intel spokesman. "We've told AMD we would be fine with making the entire agreement public. AMD has declined to do so."
Intel's crazy-popular Atom processor already dominates the netbook and nettop segments, but that might turn out to be only a glimpse of things to come. By the end of the year, look for Atom CPUs to have found a home in more than half of all entry-level desktops. What the Caesar?
Citing un-named industry sources in Taiwan, DigiTimes says Intel has had to adjust its target shipment ratio of single-core Atom 230 and dual-core Atom 330 processors as a percentage of total CPU shipments with nettops and entry-level desktops. And what an increase Intel puportely projects. According to the report, Intel expects Atom growth to increase from 4 percent (nettops) and 6 percent (desktops) in the first quarter to 10 percent and 52 percent, respectively, by the fourth quarter of 2009.
As a result, DigiTimes says Intel's 65nm dual-core Celeron E1000-series and 45nm single-core Celeron 200-series CPUs will account for less than a fifth of th shipment makeup by the end of the year.
If the projections hold true, both entry-level and mid-range desktop pricing is likely to go down.
Intel's Atom platform has become so popular that even companies you've never heard of are using it. Such is the case with Japan-based Mouse Computer, who has put together a new nettop PC, the EGPA33DR32XP.
Specs include an Intel Atom 230 (1.6GHz, 512KB) or 330 (1.6GHz, 1MB) processor, up to 2GB of DDR2-SODIMM PC2-5300, Intel GMA 950 graphics, 160GB or 320GB hard drive, DVD burner, 6 USB 2.0 ports, 4-in-1 media card reader, and Windows XP Home.
You're not likely to ever see this one state-side, but it is available now in Japan starting at around $400.
Back in October 2008, Intel expressed concerns over AMD's announcement it would split into separate design and manufacturing firms, saying such a move would might run afoul of the Patent Cross License Agreement the two signed in 2001. The Agreement, which expires in 2010, has restrictions related to the transfer of licenses and patents, and according to Intel, "AMD cannot unilaterally extend Intel's licensing rights to a third party without the Intel's consent."
Now that the spin-off is complete, AMD said today that Intel plans to pull its 2001 agreement within the next 60 days, that is unless AMD addresses concerns surrounding AMD's joint-chip foundry, Globalfoundries. AMD meanwhile says it "strongly believes that the company has not breached the terms of the cross-license and Intel has no right to terminate the company's rights and licenses under the cross license."
AMD said the parties are trying to resolve the issue through mediation, however both AMD and Intel contend that the other has breached the 2001 agreement.
Netbooks have become so wildly popular that we could hardly blame Intel if it decided to focus solely on its Atom processors. Rest assured that's not the case. According to UK news and rumor site Channel Register, Intel will soon release mobile Penryn-based processors clocked at 3GHz and higher.
The faster processors will be part of Intel's Montevina Plus platform, which will focus more heavily on HD capabilities. Quoting Intel''s mobile marketing director Karen Regis, Channel Register reports the rollout also means Intel will expand its ultra low voltage (ULV) technology into mainstream markets. These include systems just above the netbook sector typically running between $600 and $1,000, Regis said.
Look for Montevina Plus to show up in the second quarter of this year.
Call it the dawn of a new era or the beginning of the end, but however it turns out, AMD has officially closed the deal to finalize its processor manufacturing spinoff. Previously coined The Foundry, the new company will now be called Globalfoundries and led by former AMD executives.
"With the close of this historic transaction, AMD and its committed partners have conceived two strong industry-leading companies capable of charting future courses that will dramatically improve the technology industry,” said Dirk Meyer, president and chief executive officer of AMD. "Our ‘Asset Smart’ strategy is about more than providing AMD with long term access to world-class, leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing that is foundational to our growth strategy. It is about transforming the industry."
The finalized deal improves AMD's cash position by about $825 million, and as previously reported, the spinoff will be responsible for AMD's manufacturing needs. Globalfoundries also said it will offer an expanded roadmap of technologies to third-party customers, giving them early access to volume chip production when traditionally new technologies would be limited only to high-end microprocessor makers.
A new $4.2 billion manufacturing facility at the Luther Forest Technology Campus in Saratoga County, NY is also being planned. The facility will focus on 32nm and smaller technologies, and according to Globalfoundries, it will be the only independently-managed, advanced semiconductor manufacturing foundry in the U.S.
During a Q&A session at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference in San Francisco earlier this week, Nvidia revealed intentions of getting into the x86 business, saying it was a matter of 'when', and not 'if.'
"I think some time down the road it makes sense to take the same level of integration that we've done with Tegra," said Michael Hara, Nvidia's senior VP of investor relations and communications. "Tegra is by any definition a complete computer on a chip, and the requirements of that market are such that you have to be very low power, very small, but highly efficient. So in that particular state it made a lot of sense to take that approach, and someday it's going to make sense to take the same approach in the x86 market as well."
For the here and now, Nvidia is content to pair its Ion platform with Intel's Atom processor, but for how long? Hara explained that it might make sense to approach the x86 market in two or three years, and while he wasn't willing to offer a more concrete timeframe, he did say "there's no question it's on our minds."
No doubt Intel's x86 license is also on Nvidia's minds, as the two companies tussle over whether or not Nvidia is allowed to build chipsets for Nehalem. How the current dispute plays out could play a big role on how Nvidia approaches the CPU business.
Do you like the idea of Nvidia building CPUS? Hit the jump and tell us what you think.