Pat Gelsinger disclosed a few details about the Westmere architecture, the design that will follow on from Nehalem in 2009.
Westmere is a “tick” in Intel’s tick-tock strategy, meaning that it will be a refined Nehalem on a 32nm process, much like Penryn is to Merom and Conroe.
As the Nehalem design was finished just weeks ago, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the Westmere design isn’t anywhere near finished yet, but it is well under way.
However, Gelsinger did say that Westmere will introduce a set of instructions, currently known as AES-NI, that will accelerate the AES encryption and decryption process. According to Gelsinger’s slide, this is projected to deliver at least a threefold performance increase in this type of scenario.
“We’re also disclosing for the first time AES, which will be part of our Westmere products, specifically for security algorithms,” said Gelsinger. He didn’t elaborate more than that, but given that the only real widespread use of AES encryption at the moment is with HD DVD and Blu-ray discs.
Currently, both Nvidia and AMD’s mid-range and low-end graphics cards accelerate the AES-128 decryption process, so it could be that we’re going to see this implemented into Westmere’s integrated graphics core.
Although Gelsinger didn’t say this outright, putting the various bits of information we’ve been given over the last few days together seems to point to Westmere being the first processor to have the IGP introduced at the same time. With Nehalem, we get the impression that the version of the chip with an integrated graphics core will follow later down the line.
Sandy Bridge will be a completely different architecture again – the next tock after Nehalem – and Intel said that the team for this design project has already been assembled in Israel. It’s expected to arrive in 2010.
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