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Gordon Moore hasnt been right

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DQI Bureau
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In the last two years, the worlds largest chipmaker, Intel,

had been receiving a fair bit of drubbing from its pesky rival AMD. Now with

clockwork, or shall we say, "Tick-Tock" planning, Intel is back on

track with new products aimed at clawing back its lost turf Patrick P

Gelsinger,
Intels senior vice president and co-general manager of Digital

Enterprise Group (DEG), is focused on delivering the companys platforms and

products including servers, business clients, storage, communications and

embedded applications to businesses worldwide.

In an interview with CyberMedia, Gelsinger spoke about

his views on the companys Tick-Tock strategy, why he thinks Gordon Moore is

wrong and a candid assessment of the chip wars in the last few years. Excerpts

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Can you elaborate on Intels new Tick-Tock development

strategy?



The idea behind the Tick-Tock strategy is that we can do a new major process
technology every two years. So we are going from 90 nanometer (nm) to 65 nm to

45 nm to 32 nm and with that we do a product that is lined up with each of those

major process technologies. We call that the Tick. These include Core2Duo,

Penryn and others. The primary responsibility of the Tick teams is to make sure

that these processes and fabs are ramped up and running. The Tocks are the teams

that work on new microarchitectures and product innovation. The result is that

every year we have a new product family coming out-tick-tock like clockwork. We

have teams in place operating today to carry this on till 2012.

As we move to Nehalam, we will have 2, 4 and 8+ cores. We will

continue to increase the core count as we go ahead in future. The 45 nm will be

launched on November 12, while the 32 nm products are due in the first half of

2009. Our cadence has been that in the Q4 of odd years, we will launch process

technology and Q4 of even years we brought in microarchitectures. Every year we

bring out a new family.

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Gordon Moore predicted the end of Moores law 10-15 years from

now, at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco recently. When do you

think you would hit the fundamental physical limit?



I have infinite respect for Gordon Moore. However, he has declared the death
of Moores law for two decades. So he hasnt been right.

I liken it to a foggy night where you are driving down the road.

Your headlights are 100 meters in front of you. Beyond the 100 meters, you know

that the road is there, but you cant see it. As you keep going down this road

of technology, we have about 10 years of visibility into the future. So today,

we are about to launch 45 nm; we have shown the first wafers of 32 nm; we have

the first research on 24 nm and prototypes of 17 nm and 14 nm. So we have about

10 years of that research pipeline. Not that we have solved all the problems for

14 nm and 17 nm, but we have work underway that gives us optimism to move to

those generations.

Historically, if we look at where we were at 500 nm, we thought

100 nm looked really hard. But, we passed right through it. Today, we are at 45

nm and breaking through 10 nm, its really hard. We dont know the material

science or the physics to break through that yet. But as we go further down the

road, the innovations that we do today allows us to solve the problems of

tomorrow. There are some very hard problems that we see that emerge around 10

nm. That is what leads Gordon (Moore) to say what he did. I am a little more

optimistic than him because this is invention and you cant put a schedule nor

define the domain for those inventions to occur. We do have work going on some

of the new inventions that we think have to occur such as new transistor pipes

and material types like carbon nanotubes or Silicon nanowires, and also

different approaches to dealing with power and power limitations.

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Do you see this kind of ground-breaking innovation already

happening? This year, Intel announced that it is going with Hafnium-based metal

gates and not Silicon dioxide for its 45 nm products.



Yes. Significant breakthroughs are required to get through to 10 nm
products. Hafnium is the biggest change in the transistor in the last 40 years

since Robert Noyce and Jack Kilby made the core invention. This is absolutely

huge.

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As part of your multi-core strategy, are you also looking at

special purpose cores to target specific applications?



Certainly. However, we have a very different view from what has been
suggested in the industry. There is a wide variety of people who have talked

about different accelerators, graphics for application development and porting.

We have a different view that people will continue to do most of their

application development on the ever evolving Intel architecture. It is because

it is a programming model with the ability to have software tools, libraries,

rich debugging environment, the installed base, and software development rules.

When IBM announced the "Cell" architecture, they proclaimed that it is

a breakthrough in computer science in 2004. They said it would be used in

servers and workstations. But it was not successful except within the

PlayStation. This was because people could not write programs for this obtuse

architecture.

A fundamental shift

occurred in the market place in 2004-05, as Moores law allowed us to

build more transistors than we could cool. So we hit the power wall. So

our products at this time were not as competitive as they should have been

Our view is that the world of architecture starts with the

software programming model. The most powerful and beneficial thing that we can

do is to deliver a compatible architecture as opposed to breaking the

architecture. That said, we do believe that there are very specific targeted

applications for which we want to embrace accelerators. Graphics processors are

the best example of that today, because you can build special purpose

architectures to work on that area. Similarly, there are specific purpose

accelerators for high performance computing. Our approach is to embrace those

opportunities by offering interfaces into our platforms to enable them to build

on what we do.

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In 2004-05, Intel faced some stiff competition from AMD that led

to decline in market share. Are you now in a position to win back the share?



What really happened was that it takes three-four years to develop these
products. So the market situation in 2005 did not occur due to decisions taken

that year, but by decisions made in 2001 and 2002. If we look back at 2000, we

made a decision to use NetBurst (architecture) in 2004 and 05. We essentially

invested in the GHz (clockspeed) centric plan one generation too long. A

fundamental shift occurred in the market place in 2004-05, as Moores law

allowed us to build more transistors than we could cool. So we hit the power

wall. So our products at this time were not as competitive as they should have

been. We recognized this in 2002, but it was too late for us to retool the whole

product line to satisfy that. So in 2003, we moved to the Tick-Tock development

model. Thats when we re-architected the whole development process at Intel.

So with the products since end of 2005, like the Core architecture, Core2,

Penryn and Nehalem, have had superb execution against this new Tick-Tock model.

The market share declined in 2004 when AMD brought their

products into the market place. Now with our new products, we have been

consistently regaining market share. We believe that in a sustained way, our

development model and process technology leadership will allow us to extend our

lead over the industry over the next several years.

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We are slowly widening the gap between us and the competition as

we continue to execute that development model.

Priya Padmanabhan,

Cybermedia News



maildqindia@cybermedia.co.in

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