When I think of a cadence, I’m reminded of the drum line in a marching band, dutifully keeping time with a catchy beat that gets everyone’s head bobbing and keeps their feet moving.
Intel’s silicon process technology is the drum line keeping the company on a steady path. Its cadence—the tick-tock model of silicon and microarchitecture—helps explain Intel’s relentless march forward and continued success.
In short, the cadence model is broken down into two year periods. In the first year, one design team focuses on shrinking the process technology of an existing microarchitecture, working to deliver a smooth transition. In the second year, that perfected manufacturing node is applied to an all-new microarchitecture. Hence the tick and the tock.
The cadence model is working so well for Intel that we as enthusiasts hardly notice it in action. It’s much easier to just enjoy all of the exciting products coming from the company.
Nevertheless, Intel recently started shipping new processors based on the latest 45nm tick, and enthusiasts are going to want to keep an eye out. Why? Because the family of 45nm processors is more than just a simple die shrink, to begin. Dropping to a smaller process lets Intel cut power consumption, at the same time allowing room for more transistors on each die. So, while 45nm is the big news with Penryn, Intel lists nine other enhancements that’ll make this particular rim shot more potent than past process shifts.
The 45nm Wolfdale core, with a penny for scale
Most significant are larger caches across the board. The Wolfdale design—Intel’s 45nm dual-core configuration—features 6MB of L2. Yorkfield, comprised of two Wolfdales on a single package, gets 12MB.
Intel’s Advanced Digital Media Boost consists of two components. First, a new shuffle engine helps speed up SSE instructions employing certain operations. Second, the addition of an SSE4 instruction set promises to further accelerate multimedia applications properly optimized to take advantage of the feature. In other words, don’t expect to see the benefits of SSE4 today, but rather once the game guys have a chance to work the technology into their titles.
Some of the other improvements include a faster divider, boosts in the speed that Intel’s Virtualization Technology enters and exits virtual machines, higher front side bus speeds, and a couple of power-saving technologies.