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.
Intel will not comment on the accuracy of the claims, stating only that it doesn't comment on 'industry rumour or speculation,
' but with Avoton due for a release towards the second half of next year we shouldn't have long to wait to see if the Atom chip can keep ARM's Cortex-A15 at bay.