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Intel opens up its front side bus to the world+dog

IDF Spring 007 Xilinx heralds the bombshell
Tue Apr 17 2007, 06:39
ONE OF THE MOST significant things Intel is doing this IDF is going unnoticed by many.

It took a friendly fellow pointing it out to open our eyes to the biggest bombshell of the show. Intel is opening up the front side bus (FSB).

Yes, it is. You can now get non-Intel things that plug in to the CPU socket, a first. Think about this. When was the last time you saw something without a blue logo, dropped e or not, in a socket 603/4 or 771?


The magnitude of this should not be underestimated, it is one of the 'thou shalt nots' of the Intel competition manual, how it forced AMD to make their own bus and how it keeps chipset makers in line. The fact that it is opening it is a huge statement as to how seriously it take sTorrenza.

The module itself is a Xilinx Virtex 5, and on the bottom this particular one has 604 pins, perfect for plugging into an Intel Xeon infrastructure. It emulates the FSB with about 10 per cent of its capacity - leaving the rest for user mischief.


This is not a development platform, it is intended to be a fully functional device for production. You can either get one pre-programmed to do what you want, or customise the module in hardware.

Right now, there are 800 FSB versions like the one pictured running at the show, but 1066 versions are up at Xilinx, so you should see them in the not so distant future. These parts consume around 20W, so if you can use them, they offer a rather compelling performance per watt advantage over the same Intel CPUs they displace.

This shows that Intel is willing to take AMD seriously as a competitive threat, and is prepared to act upon it. In addition to this breaking one of the most sacred taboos at Intel, it also hints that engineering now has the upper hand over beuraucracy. µ


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