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Silvermont Architecture Promises Super-Efficient Intel Chips
Posted May 7, 2013
Silvermont Architecture Promises Super-Efficient Intel Chips
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By Jennifer LeClaire. Updated May 7, 2013 2:07PM

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Intel has rolled out a new energy-efficient micro-architecture that will lead to processors using a fraction of the power in current-generation chips. The micro-architecture, Silvermont, will serve as the foundation for products ranging from smartphones to data centers that will start hitting the market later this year.

Silvermont, will be manufactured using the company's 22nm 3D Tri-Gate System-on-a-Chip manufacturing process, and can scale up and down in performance and power efficiency. On a variety of standard metrics, Intel said Silvermont enables about three times peak performance, or the same performance at about five times lower power over the current-generation Intel Atom processor core.

"Silvermont is a leap forward and an entirely new technology foundation for the future that will address a broad range of products and market segments," said Dadi Perlmutter, Intel executive vice president and chief product officer. "Early sampling of our 22nm SoCs, including 'Bay Trail' and 'Avoton,' is already garnering positive feedback from our customers. Going forward, we will accelerate future generations of this low-power micro-architecture on a yearly cadence."

Lower Power Is Key

Some noteworthy features of Silvermont include a new out-of-order execution engine that enables single-threaded performance. Silvermont also facilitates new multi-core and system fabric architecture scalable up to eight cores, which makes possible better performance for higher bandwidth, lower latency, and more efficient out-of-order support for a more balanced and responsive system.

"Through our design and process technology co-optimization we exceeded our goals for Silvermont," said Belli Kuttanna, Intel Fellow and chief architect. "By taking advantage of our strengths in micro-architecture development and leading-edge process technology, we delivered a technology package that enables significantly improved performance and power efficiency -- all while delivering higher frequencies."

Why Bother?

Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told us micro-servers are an area in which Intel has significant ambitions, and Silvermont pushes the company in that direction.

"What Intel is doing with Atom on the low-power server market isn't purely a silicon play. The company points out that since Atom is purely an x86 architecture, any application that is written to run on Xeon or on Core or any other x86 will run on Atom as well," King said.

There are many application developers and ISVs interested in exploring the ARM-based processor market, King said, but it's going to cost time and money to rewrite applications for a different chip architecture.

"Intel's pitch with Silvermont and other Atom-based server offerings that they've put together over the years is, 'Why bother?' " King said. "If you've already written for x86 we can save you the time and expense by providing a lower power, higher-performing chip that saves you all the trouble and still gives you all the benefits micro-server promoters are pushing forward in the market right now."

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