Intel has started selling five new processors and a chipset for the embedded market. The quad-core and dual-core Xeon processors are being built with the company's new 45 nanometer (nm) process and will take advantage of its new transistor design.

At the same time, the company announced that it will extend life-cycle support for the new processors to seven years from the traditional five.

"It's good news from the standpoint that Intel continues to be dedicated to the market," said Jim McGregor, an analyst at In-Stat. "Funny, when you think Intel, you don't think embedded stuff. But they've been in the market for 15 to 20 years. Their embedded group is a billion dollar business." He added that over the past few years, that embedded group had even gained a lot more direct engineering expertise.

Doug Davis, general manager of Intel's embedded and communications group, said the company has long supported embedded Xeon processors, and was now extending that to 45nm versions. The new processors are using the same transistors and the same 45nm process as the new Penryn family of chips.

The new chipset unveiled alongside the processors means customers now have two options. Davis explained that the new 5100 Memory Controller Hub is a redesign of the Intel 5000P chipset, which will continue to be sold. The 5100 improves power efficiency.

"With 5100 you get a lower power solution. You can get a 67 percent performance per watt power increase over the 5000P chipset," Davis said. One situation where he suggested this could be useful was in the design of a multimedia platform by a company using a blade with tight thermal specification.

A chipset is paired with all of Intel's processors. It’s a group of integrated circuits that enable the processor to talk to the memory and other devices in the system, like a USB port or an optical interface. It's the hub of data transfer.

The new 5100 is primarily expected to handle all of the memory interface, Davis also said. It can address up to 48GB of data.

"The 5000P…takes more components to support fully buffered memory," Davis explained. "It was designed for big database servers. It creates challenges in the embedded space because it took more components and used more power because of the buffering. The 5100 uses less power because it doesn't have to deal with all the buffering."

As for the newly designed transistor, Davis explained that it's giving the processors greater performance per watt. "The transistor switching speed went up more than 20 percent compared to the transistors on the older 65nm chips, and reduced power consumption by 30 percent," he added.