The rapid growth of processing horsepower that drives the computer industry should continue unabated for several years as Intel prepares to adopt more sophisticated manufacturing techniques that promise to significantly boost performance for all types of hardware.
Intel's plan to shift from a 0.25- to a 0.18-micron process beginning next year is ahead of schedule, according to Paul Otellini, Intel's executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Business Group, in Santa Clara, California. Therefore, IT managers can expect to see higher performance, lower prices, and less power consumption across the board.
"It's more bang for the buck," says Tony Massimini, chief of technology at Semico Research, in Phoenix.
Next year's decrease from a 0.25-micron process to 0.18-micron geometries will increase speeds because the chip is smaller. It also reduces production costs because each wafer holds more chips, and it cuts power consumption because the chips operate at lower voltages.
Alternatively, Intel can add more circuitry to a chip of any given size, Massimini notes. For example, in CPUs that translates into more on-chip Level 2 cache memory. In core logic, it means simplifying the integration of graphics controller functions on motherboards.
"Especially with core logic, you get much higher levels of integration," Massimini says. "That will help Intel attack the low end of the market even more aggressively."
The technology transition will also give Intel the same capabilities in networking chips, Massimini adds.
Production of the first 0.18-micron parts is being moved forward by at least one quarter with manufacturing now planned for the first half of 1999. Intel plans to offer a 0.18-micron IA-32 microprocessor in 1999 and a 0.18-micron 64-bit (Merced) microprocessor in 2000.
By using 0.18-micron features first on IA-32 chips, Intel will have proven the technology by the time Merced goes into production.
Almost all of Intel's processor production have already moved to the 0.25-micron process. The older 0.35-micron technology is still being used only on some Pentium MMX (P5) CPUs and on some of the earliest Pentium II (P6) processors, Massimini said.
Intel has ended "wafer starts" on the P6-generation Pentium Pro processor ays will sell off warehouse and in-process inventories as applications shift to the Pentium II Xeon, Otellini said.
Intel Corp., in Santa Clara, California, can be reached at http://www.intel.com.