Intel has indicated that its forthcoming chip microarchitecture, Nehalem, will first be targeted at servers and high-end desktops but later will be scaled down for laptops.

The Nehalem architecture, a substantial upgrade to Intel's current Core 2 microarchitecture, will pack between two and eight cores, said Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president and general manager of the digital enterprise group at Intel. .

Each core in Nehalem chips will be able to execute two software threads simultaneously, so a server could potentially run 16 threads at the same time. Each core will have 256K bytes of L2 cache and a shared 8M-byte L3 cache, so local cores can better execute threads, Gelsinger said. The QuickPath Interconnect will provide improved communication between system components.

The Nehalem architecture will include an integrated DDR3 memory controller that delivers three times the memory performance of today's highest-performance Xeon processor, Gelsinger said. Nehalem chips will come with an optional integrated graphics controller, Gelsinger said.

Overall, Nehalem chips are designed to deliver better performance-per-watt and improved system performance, Gelsinger said. The chips are due for release in late 2008 and will be made with a 45-nanometre manufacturing process.

The company will follow up Nehalem with the Westmere microarchitecture in 2009 and Sandy Bridge in 2010. Work has begun on microarchitectures to succeed Sandy Bridge, but code-names have not been assigned to those. Intel has said chips will be manufactured using a 22-nm manufacturing process by 2011.

Intel is also working on the Larrabee platform, which will combine lots of cores, lots of threads and graphics capabilities to deliver high speed for the high-performance computing segment. It may bundle a graphics processing unit with the CPU on a single chip, Gelsinger said. Intel rival AMD plans to launch the Fusion chip, which will combine a graphics processing unit and CPU on one chip, in the second half of 2009.

Intel also said it would ship its first six-core Xeon processor, code-named Dunnington, in the second half of this year. The Dunnington chip will be part of Intel's Xeon MP 7300 series of processors and will allow a four-processor server to have as many as 24 cores. The chip will have 1.9 billion transistors and include a 16MB L3 cache. It will be part of the Caneland server platform, which also includes the Clarksboro chipset.