Intel's Next-Gen Atom "Avoton"
Micro-Server CPU to Feature Eight-Cores & New Memory Controller
We already reported that Intel plans to launch Bordenville platform for micro-servers sometime this quarter. Part of the Bordenville platform is a "Centerton" system on a chip, that incorporates two Atom "Saltwell" cores, single-channel DDR3 memory controller, PCI Express 2.0 interface, and a number of legacy I/O controllers. The Centerton SoCs don't require Platform or I/O controller hub, but they do need external controllers to support Ethernet, SATA and USB interfaces. The processors will run at frequencies from 1.6 GHz to 2 GHz, and have 6 - 8.5 Watt TDP.
Some of the shortcomings of the Centerton processors, like requirement of external controller chips, will be addressed by Edisonville platform. That platform will have much greater performance per Watt ratio compared to Centerton, or even Haswell microprocessors. The platform will be based on "Avoton" SoC, that integrates SATA, GbE and USB interfaces directly on a chip. The interfaces will support 4x SATA 2, 2x SATA 3, 4x Gigabit and 4x USB 2.0 ports. Like Centerton products, Avoton processors will have 16 lanes (4 controllers) of PCI Express 2.0 interface, and support legacy I/O, such as LPC, SPI, SMBus, UART and general purpose I/O. DDR3 memory controller on the SoC is going to have two channels, and work with DDR3-1600 and DDR3L-1600 memory.
The CPU part of the Avoton SoC will pack from 2 to 8 Atom cores. Each pair of cores will share 1 MB L2 cache, therefore the 8-core version of the chip will have 4 MB of level 2 cache. The cores will be built on "Silvermont" 22nm microarchitecture. Silvermont cores are expected to support out-of-order processing, which should significantly increase their performance. Another enhancement in Avoton processors will be Turbo Boost-like feature, that may temporarily raise clock frequency to achieve better performance. Avoton processors will be clocked up to 2.4 GHz (depending on SKU), or up to 2.7 GHz when the Turbo feature is active. Thermal Design power of Avoton SoCs will range from 5 Watt to 20 Watt. The CPUs will be produced in a BGA package. The SoCs and the Edisonville platform will be released in the second half of 2013.
Leaks regarding Intel's upcoming Avoton 22nm Atom processor suggest that the company is serious about working to keep Cambridge-based rival ARM out of the microserver market, pointing towards a chip that has more in common with a high-end Xeon than its netbook- and mobile-oriented namesakes.
According to an unnamed Intel source speaking to Chinese-language news site MyDrivers, the 22nm Avoton Atom processor - due to launch next year alongside Intel's Haswell chips for desktops and laptops - will include features designed to make it the darling of the burgeoning microserver market.
First, the specifications: the first Avoton chips are expected to reach clockspeeds of 2.4GHz with Turbo Boost support to push the speed up to 2.7GHz if two cores are doing most of the work. An on-board DDR3 memory controller will provide dual-channel access to DDR3-1600 RAM, along with on-board controllers for up to four gigabit Ethernet connections, four USB 2.0 ports, two SATA III and four SATA II connections, and PCI Express 2.0 support for sixteen lanes. In other words: it's a true system-on-chip (SoC) design.
More important than the clockspeeds and controllers, however, is the claim that Avoton will support out-of-order execution (OoOE,) a feature missing from other Atom chips which can significantly improve performance by making use of spare processor cycles during idle periods.
Another serious shift is in the number of physical cores: where current Atom processors limit themselves to two cores, extended to four virtual cores with Hyper Threading, it's claimed that Avoton will pack up to eight physical cores in the highest-performance model. Assuming Intel includes Hyper Threading support, that will provide servers with sixteen logical processing cores per chip - and we're expecting to see plenty of these chips crammed into compact spaces.
Despite all these features, and support for Intel's hardware virtualisation extensions and ECC memory, it's claimed that the parts will be available between 5W and 20W TDP.
Sentiment: Strong Sell