Sandy Bridge Technology Introduction

There were a couple of interesting Sandy Bridge sessions at the Intel Channel & Embedded Conference held this week in the Atlanta area.  I’m sure you’ve heard some of the hype regarding this “2nd generation Intel® Core™ processor family.”  Some information is just that – hype – but, the reality is that there are some major design changes to the processor in the Sandy Bridge architecture that should vastly improve the system performance, power efficiencies and platform security in Mil-COTS defense applications, medical imaging and industrial automation systems.

Here are a few highlights from the two Sandy Bridge sessions.

Session 1 – Introduction to Sandy Bridge

One of the key things to remember about the term “Sandy Bridge” is that it is an Intel® project code name for a new processor architecture.  That means there will be a wide variety of different processor types introduced into the mobile, desktop, server and embedded computing market segments starting in early 2011 and continuing through the middle of 2012.  These new processors will all share the basic elements of the Sandy Bridge architecture, but different processor SKUs will have varying capabilities and features enabled.  There will be more on the various processor and chipset types in future blogs.

The way processor sections on the CPU die itself have been re-ordered in the Sandy Bridge architecture to provide a tighter integration between the memory interface, processing and traditional Northbridge functions is noteworthy.  This is being argued in the blogging world as the first major, ground up x86 processor design since the Intel® Pentium® Pro was introduced back in the early ‘90s.

That is the not Intel® hype per se, but in going though the re-ordering and re-structuring of the CPU die in Sandy Bridge, I can see where the claim that Sandy Bridge processors should provide a significant performance boost compared to the previous generation Westmere class of CPUs at a sharply reduced power consumption may be valid.  Of course, our benchmarking testing for our future Sandy Bridge board and system designs will confirm and quantify just how much of a boost you can expect in your industrial computer applications.

Session 2 – Visual Computing Capabilities in Sandy Bridge

The Sandy Bridge architecture provides multiple processing cores with up to eight cores in the processor versions scheduled for release in late 2011 and early 2012.  In addition to the processor cores, there is a separate graphics core and a new processor feature called Intel® AVX.  AVX stands for Advanced Vector Extensions and it improves floating point computational speeds.

A doubling of the vector widths to 256 bits and the ability to process partial width load and store operations also helps this AVX capability to boost performance.  All of this gets combined with a new capability of applying Intel® Turbo Boost Technology across all cores; including the graphics core, to dynamically boost selected core processing frequencies based on the demands of the system at any given time.  This should boost high-def video and 3-D graphics performance in video processing applications. One of the other improvements in Sandy Bridge is the ability to use these new processor architecture features to support multiple video and 3D graphic interfaces directly out of the processor.

Stay tuned for more information on how you can apply the benefits of the upcoming Sandy Bridge processor technology in future Trenton single board computer and rackmount computer systems.

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