Intel Microarchitecture (Nehalem) and its Applications on Videogames


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This is a research project about Intel\'s newest microarchitecture and its possible applications on videogames.

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Intel Microarchitecture (Nehalem) and its Applications on Videogames

  1. 1. Computer Organization and Assembly Language09Intel Microarchitecture (Nehalem) and its Applications on VideogamesNew Technology Research ProjectAlejandro Fajardo<br />Alejandro Fajardo<br />Michael Oberberger<br />SG360<br />19 February 2010<br />Intel Microarchitecture (Nehalem) - Applications on Videogames<br />With technology in constant evolution, the architecture of the new processors is always subject to new ideas. Companies such as Intel and AMD mark the trend of the changes in design, construction, performance, and applications of processors, and software developers are always willing to take advantage of the newest features and products they have to offer. <br />Now Intel introduced at the Intel Developer Forum to its newest family of processors called Intel Core i5, two new processors named Intel Core i7 and the series of processors Intel Xeon 3400. These new chips are based on Intel’s Microarchitecture Nehalem – formerly known as codename Lynnfield -, which is especially designed for those consumers who utilize digital media, productivity, videogames and other applications that demand for “processor scalability, performance, and energy efficiency.” (Casazza)<br />Nehalem was designed from scratch in order to take full advantage of Intel’s 45-nm HI-k metal gate silicon technology. This process technology “uses a unique material combination of HI-k gate dielectrics and conductors” (Casazza), which allows Intel to create transistors – and thus processors – with improved performance and reduced electrical leakage as well. This technology also “increases transistor switching speeds to enable higher core and bus clock frequencies and thus more performance in the same power and thermal envelope.” (Casazza) Because of this, Nehalem-based processors can process up to four instructions per clock cycle on a sustained basis compared to just three instructions per clock cycle or less processed by other processors. <br />All Nehalem processors are lead-free, halogen-free, and include the exclusive Turbo Boost technology which, in general, offer computer users an “intelligent” performance when necessary and an optimum energy efficiency when the computer is processing a low load of work. According to Intel Vice President Mooly Eden, “if the current application workload isn't keeping all four cores fully busy and pushing right up against the chip's TDP (Thermal Design Power) limit, Turbo Boost can increase the clock speed of each core individually to get more performance out of the chip.” (Glaskowsky) Eden also mentioned that “the Turbo Boost controller samples the current power consumption and chip temperature 200 times per second and makes whatever adjustments are necessary.” (Glaskowsky)The new processors Core i5/i7 are the first to integrate a 16-channel PCI Express 2 graphics port as a 2-channel memory controller, which makes possible that the Intel P55 Express chipset, composed by a single chip, drives all the I/O functions. (See Figure 1)<br />Figure 1. Relationship between Intel Core i5/i7 processors and Intel P55 Express chipset (Gasior)<br />A new 2GB/s DMI is connected between the processor and the chipset. The chipset supports 8 PCI Express ports, 6 SATA 3 Gb/s ports, and can support up to 14 USB 2.0 ports with the 2.0 Rate Matching Hub, together with Intel High Definition Audio technology for a first quality digital sound. The new processors are the first supported by the new socket package technology Land Grid Array (LGA) 1156. (Gasior)<br />Intel Microarchitecture (Nehalem) includes the following innovations:<br />Dynamically managed cores, threads, cache, interfaces, and power<br />Intel Hyper-Threading Technology, a capability which enables running two simultaneous threads per core—an amazing eight simultaneous threads per quad-core processor and 16 simultaneous threads for dual-processor, quad-core designs. This feature provides an energy efficient means of increasing performance for multi-threaded workloads.<br />Innovative extensions to the Intel® Streaming SIMD Extensions 4 (SSE4) that center on enhancing Extensible Markup Language (XML), string, and text processing performance<br />Superior multi-level cache, including an inclusive shared L3 (last-level) cache<br />Intel QuickPath Technology, which delivers memory bandwidth leadership at up to 3.5 times the bandwidth of previous-generation processors.<br />Intelligent Power Technology that monitors power consumption in servers to identify those that are not being fully utilized.<br />Scalable performance for from one-to-16 (or more) threads and from one-to-eight (or more) cores <br />Scalable and configurable system interconnects and integrated memory controllers<br />High-performance integrated graphics engine for client platforms CITATION Cas09 l 1033 (Casazza)<br />Videogames may be considered to have the highest demand of resources in order to display and manipulate graphics on real-time as fast as possible. In order to accomplish this, Nehalem Microarchitecture counts with all the SSE4 instructions included on Intel previous Microarchitecture – codenamed Penryn - plus seven Application Targeted Accelerators, which provide new instructions for better performance of text processing and XML strings. Tokenizing, evaluating expressions and other tasks used on scripting languages such as Python and TorqueScript can be executed faster by Nehalem-based processors. With these improvements plus other innovations previously mentioned – i.e. Turbo Boost, Intelligent Power Technology, QuickPath Technology -, the development of new videogames that explode the benefits Nehalem Microarchitecture provides is unavoidable.<br />Glossary<br />Automated Low-Power States: Feature that “adjusts system power consumption based on real-time load.” CITATION Cas09 l 1033 (Casazza)<br />Chipset: A number of integrated circuits designed to “perform one or more related functions. It is often used to refer to the core functionality of a motherboard.” CITATION Web09 l 1033 (Webopedia)<br />Dielectric: A substance in which an electric field can be maintained with a minimum loss of power. CITATION Dic09 l 1033 (<br />DMI: Acronym for Desktop Management Interface, which is “an API to enable software to collect information about a computer environment.” CITATION Web09 l 1033 (Webopedia)<br />Electrical leakage: Term that refers to leakage current, which is “the loss of all or part of electric current that flows through an insulator.” CITATION Dic09 l 1033 (<br />Gate: A circuit with one output that “is activated only by certain combinations of two or more inputs.” CITATION Dic09 l 1033 (<br />Integrated Power Gates: Allows individual idling cores to be reduced to near-zero power independent of other operating cores, reducing idle power consumption to 10 W.”<br />Intelligent Power Technology: Performance-enhanced dynamic power management with Integrated Power Gates and Automated Low-Power States as its main features.<br />PCI: Acronym for Peripheral Component Interconnect, which is “a local bus standard developed by Intel Corporation.” CITATION Web09 l 1033 (Webopedia)<br />QuickPath Technology: New high-end system architecture that delivers “from two to three times more peak bandwidth and up to four times more realized bandwidth (depending on configuration) as compared to previous Intel Xeon processors.” CITATION Cas09 l 1033 (Casazza)<br />SSE4: Acronym for Intel Streaming SIMD Extensions 4. SSE4 consists of “54 new instructions in Intel 64 processors made from 45 nm process technology.” CITATION Int09 l 1033 (Intel)<br />Works Cited BIBLIOGRAPHY Casazza, J. " First the Tick, Now the Tock: Intel Microarchitecture (Nehalem)." 2009. Intel Microarchitecture, Codenamed Nehalem. 14 November 2009 <> 2009. 15 November 2009 <>.Gasior, G. " Intel's P55 Express Chipset." 8 September 2009. The Tech Report. 14 November 2009 <>.Glaskowsky, P. " Explaining Intel's Turbo Boost Technology." 28 September 2009. CNET News. 13 November 2009 <>.Intel. " Intel SSE4 Programming Reference." 2009. Intel. 15 November 2009 <>.<br />