Intel's Westmere-EX chip to include 10 cores

That will be the highest number of server cores for Intel, though rival AMD will still hold the core-number advantage

Intel's next-generation server processor code-named Westmere-EX will pack in 10 cores, an industry source said on Monday

The upcoming Westmere-EX will succeed processors code-named Nehalem-EX, which include up to eight cores and are considered the company's fastest processors to date. Each Westmere-EX core will be able to run two threads simultaneously, allowing the CPU to run 20 threads simultaneously. Intel's rival Advanced Micro Devices will, however, continue to hold an advantage in the number of physical cores included in a CPU. The company already offers a 12-core processor code-named Magny-Cours and is scheduled to release a 16-core server chip code-named Interlagos next year.

An Intel spokesperson declined to detail the number of cores in Westmere-EX, saying the company does not comment on speculation or rumor. Intel previously said that Westmere-EX will be targeted at servers with four sockets and higher. The chips will be made using the 32-nanometer manufacturing process and are due for release next year.

The upgrade from eight cores to 10 isn't colossal, but it should be significant for data centers looking to get more performance from servers, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

"You've got more cores and a slightly updated microarchitecture, so you'll get improved performance in the same power envelope," McCarron said.

The new chips will also provide an opportunity to consolidate servers in data centers to cut electricity bills, McCarron said.

While Intel and AMD are rivals, the companies at the same time serve different markets depending on price and server types. Intel dominates the high-end server market and Westmere-EX should strengthen its hold, McCarron said.

Westmere-EX could carry many of the innovations introduced with the Nehalem-EX chips, McCarron said. Intel introduced many error-correction features in Nehalem-EX that could make servers more fault-tolerant and provide greater uptime. Some technologies were adapted from Intel's high-end Itanium processors, which are based on a separate chip architecture.

Hints on the number of cores in Westmere-EX came from the title of a paper about the chip announced on Sunday. Intel is scheduled to present the paper, called "Westmere-EX: A 20 Thread Server CPU," at the Hot Chips 22 conference, which will be held at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, Aug. 22 and 24.

Intel already offers chips based on the Westmere architecture for PCs and servers that can simultaneously run two threads per core. That ability to run 20 threads pointed to Westmere-EX CPUs including up to 10 physical cores.

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