Intel's Grove touts speed of NetPC

Intel CEO Andrew Grove has chosen a major keynote speech to highlight the Dual Independent Bus architecture feature of the forthcoming Pentium II, which will improve the processor's memory bandwidth performance.

During his keynote address here at Compaq Computer Corp.'s Innovate Forum, Grove also demonstrated the NetPC for the first time, touting it as a good platform for both Java and PC applications, and demonstrated Web-based management of the NetPC.

He described how the Dual Independent Bus architecture will improve Pentium II performance by increasing the speed of data exchanged between the processor and memory subsystems.

"It is not enough to deliver faster CPUs," Grove said. "We must deal with and cross the bandwidth valleys of death," meaning bottlenecks in the processor-to-memory and processor-to-graphics bus.

The Dual Independent Bus architecture, which was first implemented in Pentium Pro chips, will be widely available when the Pentium II processor is released in May and will result in improved memory bandwidth performance, he said.

In contrast with Pentium-style processors that have a single bus architecture, the Pentium II has two independent buses, an L 2 cache bus in a processor-to-main memory system bus. The Dual Independent Bus architecture on a 300-MHz Pentium II results in a total processor bandwidth of 1.7G bytes per second, three times that of the Pentium processor. The Pentium II and the Dual Independent Bus architecture will be packaged in a Single Edge Contact cartridge. That, combined with a new "Slot 1" infrastructure allows room for future higher performance processors, Grove said.

To further improve graphics performance, Intel will add the Accelerated Graphics Port interface to the Pentium II by the end of this year.

Thanks to the Pentium II's higher processor speeds and improved Dual Independent Bus architecture, Grove said, users will get higher performance on calculation-intensive and graphics-intensive applications, as well as office applications.

In the demonstration, which Grove said showed his vision of the "visual connected PC", Intel personnel showed a 300-MHz Pentium II processor system doing solid modeling, and showed a technology demonstration of a real-time 3-D rendering on a 450-MHz Pentium II-based workstation.

Intel personnel also demonstrated Web-based management of the NetPC, using Intel's LANDesk Configuration Manager. He declined to say when the Web-based management capability would be available.

Intel and Microsoft Corp. announced the specifications for the NetPC -- a limited configuration PC that a user cannot upgrade and that is managed remotely -- at CeBIT 97. Several PC vendors, including Compaq, plan to release models over the coming year.

Grove said that Intel is working with Compaq and Microsoft to bring Web-based management to market and make it the foundation for all management software.

The demonstrations were received enthusiastically by the full-house crowd.

"The management is big to us because we need to revamp our desktop management," said John Townsend, principal engineer for technical operations at CompuServe Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. Intel's management demonstration showed a LANDesk client manager fixing an audio problem on a NetPC over a corporate intranet, and also fixing a server problem called in by a mobile PC user via an Internet Video Phone call.

Intel also tried to show that the NetPC prototype runs Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java applications faster than a Sun Java station. The NetPC, which had a 233-MHz Pentium II and 32M bytes of RAM, ran faster than the Java station, in part because the Java station was based on a slower 100-MHz microSpark processor with 32M bytes of RAM, Grove said. But even adjusting for the difference in speed, Java benchmarks and Corel's Office for Java ran faster on the NetPC, he said.

"The NetPC delivers performance on Java applications as good or better as the equivalent (Java Station) and runs all of the PC applications, which helps us (make) the PC and the NetPC ... the no-risk ... choice for Java applications," Grove said.

Grove also reiterated Intel's dual path processor roadmap, under which it will continue to expand its 32-bit processor line and also develop a 64-bit Merced architecture.

Intel, in Santa Clara, California, can be reached at +1-408-987-8080 and on the World Wide Web at http://www.intel.com/.

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