Pat Gelsinger, Senior VP/GM of Intel’s (INTC) Digital Enterprise group (i.e. CPUs), keynoted the JPMorgan Technology Investment conference yesterday, and as ususal, the really interesting bits were in the Q&A.
Pat commented that the new quad-core Barcelona from AMD (AMD) was “Too Little, Too Late when compared with Penryn”, and that at best it was a catch up effort by AMD.
An audience member brought up the importance of power dissipation and how that is the new denominator of performance- rather than dollar cost. Pat wasted no time talking about the improvements from the old Netburst architecture (yuck) and that the new quad core Penryn and associated chipsets dropped power from a single 110W core to four cores running at a total of 50W. Killing Netburst was the most important thing Intel did in this decade, in my opinion. Netburst is what led to the ascendancy of AMD, and it’s replacement led to it’s downfall.
Finally, in an observation that probably escaped 95% of the audience, he talked about the benefits of Hafnium, the new gate dialectric that is replacing the several decades old SiO2 (silicon dioxide). SiO2 thickness had dropped to 10 atomic layers and the move to hafnium drops gate leakage by a factor of 20. Given gate leakage was the #1 source of power dissipation, and SiO2 was 40 years old, this was a notable transition.
The question I wished I asked – does Virtualization threaten or complement Intel’s server chip business?